Your Social Media Programs Are Global - Whether You Want Them To Be Or Not

The Groundswell is now global. Social media has entered the mainstream in every single market Forrester regularly surveys — and in most of those markets, social media use is at 75% or higher. Australian, Japanese and Italian online users all show stronger adoption of social media than Americans do – and Chinese, Dutch and Swedish users have nearly pulled level with the Americans. And in 2010 Facebook reported that more than 70% of its active users were outside the US, while Twitter said more than 60% of its accounts come from outside the US.

The simple fact is that if your company has a social media program, that program is global — whether you want it to be or not. And this isn’t just a nuisance or a language issue. Failing to recognize the global nature of your social programs means you might be telling foreign users about products that aren’t available in their countries (for instance, Toyota UK reached more than 100 million people with a fantastic blogger outreach program for its iQ model; but it turns out that more than 95% of those people live in countries where the iQ isn’t for sale). Or you may be advertising discounts and promotions to which many users don’t have access (for instance, while Amazon’s Facebook page promoted a special price of $89 for the Kindle last November, a Kindle cost almost twice as much in the UK — and wasn’t available at all in most other markets). If you work in a regulated industry like financial services or pharmaceuticals, you risk running afoul of government regulators.

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The Next Generation Of Digital Financial Services

[With apologies to all those of you who had already read this, I'm re-publishing this as the Forrester gremlins ate my previous post.]

For the past few years, many eBusiness and channel strategy executives in financial services have had a nagging sense that today's websites would be rendered obsolete as new technologies emerged or younger consumers developed radically different behaviour patterns. We think that time if fast coming upon us. 

For the past six months we've been working on our vision of the Next Generation of Digital Financial Services, led by my colleague Alexander Hesse and inspired by the work of leading eBusiness teams worldwide. Although our vision is not an exact description of how all digital financial services will evolve, given the wide variety of markets that eBusiness executives operate in and the different strategies of their firms, we think the next generation of digital financial services will be characterized by five things:

  • Simplicity. Making it easy for customers to achieve their goals.
  • Ubiquity. Interacting with customers wherever they want.
  • Personalization. Making the entire experience relevant to individual needs.
  • Empowerment. Enabling customers to take action by themselves.
  • Reassurance. Providing human help whenever it adds value.
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How Twitter Helped Japan

It has been horrible to hear the news of Japan's crippling 8.9 earthquake and the threats and aftershocks that have followed. As a Bay Area resident, earthquakes are top of mind and you just hope another "big one" will never come. Imagine the look on my face when my husband showed me the video he took from our porch of the tsunami wave that traveled from Japan and swept our city's bay a mere 14 hours later. I was in complete disbelief. A wave created from an earthquake in Japan sent all the way to California? Mother Nature has shown us again that she is not to be tested.

There have been many stories in the news about social media and the role it's played since the earthquake. Victims of the quake and families of victims have turned to social media to find loved ones, search for the missing and bring attention to further threats from nuclear power plant explosions to local fires. Without a doubt, Twitter's been a front runner in this story. The average number of tweets on a given day is around 37 million. On the day of the quake, more than 117 millions tweets hit the Web. Moreover, more than 572,000 new Twitter accounts have been created since the quake. Those numbers are staggering. 

Instances like these remind me of why I love social media. In addition to the opportunity if creates for marketers to engage in a dialogue with consumers and build relationships, it also bring us — the world — closer together. Social media has turned an incident from the other side of the world into feeling like it was in my own backyard. Now, that's pretty powerful. Show your support to victims and see what others are saying, use #HelpJapan and/or #PrayForJapan in your next tweet. 

Facebook And The Future Of TV

While all my social media friends and fellow analysts have been running around Austin for South by Southwest's annual conference, I have been holding down the fort and keeping an eye on what's going on in television. In addition to working on my upcoming research report on the convergence of social media and television (a.k.a. social TV), I've been asked quite a bit about Facebook's recent announcement. Warner Brothers and Facebook are teaming up to distribute films on Facebook's platform at $3 a pop. The deal aims to put Warner Brothers in front of a 500 million+ online audience of existing and potential customers. But do people want to watch movies on Facebook?

In my opinion, the answer to that question is not important at the moment. What marketers need to realize (if they haven't done so already) is that consumers are watching TV much differently. Very differently. Whether it's buying a Dwight bobble head while watching The Office with a click of a remote, voting who Jake should give the next rose to on The Bachelor or renting the Dark Knight on Facebook, consumers aren't just staring at the screen anymore. Marketers testing on emerging channels are taking advantage of new opportunities to reach their audience and being creative while doing it. 

If you're one of these marketers, I want to hear from you. Tweet me at @shaw_smith or email me at elshaw@forrester.com.

Note: For more on the details of the Warner Brothers/Facebook deal and to read some more of my thoughts, check out Bloomberg's coverage and my quote in Warner Starts Movie Service on Facebook, Pressuring Netflix.

Why Companies Overpromise And Underdeliver On Customer Experience: One Hypothesis

Last weekend I used my AAdvantage miles on a plane ticket for my husband. I went to AA.com, it was easy to trade off options based on number of miles used and flight schedule. When I went to book, my name and AAdvantage number were pre-populated into the form. I changed the name and number to his but got an error: “The AAdvantage number for Passenger 1 does not match the name entered. Please verify and re-enter.”*

Problem #1: A design problem stopped me from booking the ticket myself on the site.

Problem #2: An unhelpful error message didn’t help me fix the first problem.

Without any other choice, I called for help. Before I could reach a person – or even a menu, I got this message:

“With the refreshed and redesigned AA.com it’s easy to book, explore, and plan all of your travel needs in one place because we’ve organized things better, made it more intuitive, smarter, simpler, cleaner, all to help bring your next trip closer to reality. This is the first step of more exciting changes we have planned for AA.com. Whether you are looking or booking, a better travel experience awaits with the new, easy to navigate AA.com. Book a trip now and see for yourself. To expedite your call, please have your Advantage number ready.”

Problem #3: I had to spend a full minute hearing about how American’s new site could help me — the same site that had already failed to help me.

When I finally reached an agent and explained my problem, she said: “Well, you just had to think on it harder. You needed to leave the Advantage number blank.”

Problem #4: The agent told me I’m stupid.  Who likes that?

Armed with new instructions, I tried to book the ticket. But instead I got an error message saying the site had timed out.

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The Role Of Social Gets Clearer For Financial Services

To this point, marketing and specifically interactive marketing have been the focus of social and its applicability to financial services. A colleague of mine – Nate Elliott – has written on the opportunities for the industry on a few occasions, and if you have not seen his work, please check it out.

The role of social outside of pure marketing has been less clear to this point, and it is only now that we can see the areas social can move the needle for financial services. Over the last year, Forrester has written numerous reports and case studies on the subject, and I wanted to highlight a few key areas of social strategy and related reports on the subject. In my view, those areas include:

  • Online sales. For years, marketers have used testimonials to sell products and services, but that concept was foreign to most eBusiness executives in charge of online sales then USAA showed the way. USAA uses customer ratings and reviews to drives sales on their web site. The essence of the strategy is to use the “authentic voice” of the customer to win over would-be shoppers, and represents a great way to tap the good will that USAA has garnered over the years with it customers. During a nine month periord in 2009, the utilization of customer ratings and reviews drove nearly 16,000 incremental product sales.
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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Jodi Watson, VP Global eCommerce

I recently had the chance to catch up with Jodi Watson, VP, Global eCommerce & Consumer Insights at Wolverine World Wide to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on her role, her organization, and Wolverine World Wide’s business.

Since 1883, Wolverine World Wide has been a global manufacturer and retailer of footwear and apparel brands, operating in more than 190 countries around the world to bring to life brands such as: Bates, CAT Footwear, Chaco, Cushe, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Sebago, Patagonia Footwear, and Wolverine. Jodi is an experienced direct-to-consumer leader with more than 15 years in eCommerce, catalog, and retail at a wide range of firms prior to Wolverine World Wide.

Forrester: Jodi, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. How are you looking at this and what does it mean for your business?

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Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce

Multichannel commerce no longer makes sense. As consumers are increasingly connected through a wide array of Internet-connected devices, the traditional multichannel commerce experience is becoming obsolete. Customers no longer interact with companies from a “channel” perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. These touchpoints include channels such as stores, branches, call centers, and websites, but also emerging interactions such as apps, social media, mobile sites, SMS messages, and interactive advertising -- across a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets, Internet TVs, cars, and even appliances. 

As a result, it is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind and enter the era of agile commerce —optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today’s empowered, ever-connected customers across this rapidly evolving set of customer touchpoints. This is agile commerce.

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Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards 2011 – Nomination Period Begins March 25th

It’s that time of year again. We’re already in the midst of planning our annual Customer Experience Forum, and now we’re gearing up to collect and evaluate nominations for our Voice Of The Customer Awards — which we’ll present at the Forum.

If you’re new to the awards, here’s some background: Forrester's annual Voice Of The Customer Awards recognize organizations that excel in collecting, analyzing, and acting on feedback from their customers — incorporating customer insights into everyday decisions. We conduct the awards for three basic reasons: 1) to emphasize the importance of VoC programs; 2) to celebrate organizations that are leading the way; and 3) to highlight best practices.

If you (or, if you’re a vendor, your clients) have a strong VoC program, we encourage you to participate. It's free and offers a great opportunity to earn some solid PR while also sharing your wisdom with other customer experience pros. Also, we only reveal the names of the finalists and winners, so the potential downside is limited.  

You can find all of the information you need on our VoC Award home page. The 2011 nomination form will become available there on March 25th. In the meantime, you can review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past winners.

Why iPad 2 Won’t Have Much Competition In 2011—Unless It’s From Amazon

Forrester published a new report today making the call that the iPad challengers that have been announced so far—Android Honeycomb tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, and others, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad—are solid products with fatally flawed product strategies.

In short, competing tablets are too expensive, and can’t match the Apple Store as a channel. These two claims are related: Forrester’s research has shown that consumers attribute more value to Apple products because of the in-store service. Consumers are not only comparing feeds and speeds; there’s also a human factor. The humans working in the Apple Store will have a huge impact teaching consumers about the iPad and how to use it. Compare the experience of walking into an Apple Store, where the iPad is front and center, to walking into a Verizon store where the Samsung Galaxy Tab is collecting dust at the back of the store and the sales reps don’t quite know what to make of it. Or walking into a Best Buy store, whose shelves will soon be lined with similar-looking tablets with similar functionality.

Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80% share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011.

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