Do We Still Need SMS?

Apple's announcement today on the "Notification Center" triggered my comments. Other than the fact that I no longer need to tether all of my devices to a computer (finally!), I think this was my favorite announcement. My top "negative" re notifications to date has been the inability to save or file them. Do I want to save a FB update? No, not really. But I do want to save and file coupons, promotions, news alerts, etc. Will be interesting to watch the effectiveness of notifications now that they DON'T interrupt . . . in some ways, that's the point. Less intrusiveness may attract more uses of those afraid of annoying their customers. Re 100B notifications to date . . . wow.

"Do we need SMS?" I think the answer is "absolutely, yes." I've had more than one of my colleagues suggest to me that SMS no longer holds any relevance for commercial businesses hoping to reach their customer base. I disagree. Here's why:

  • For the forseeable future, a very small percentage of any company's customers will have downloaded its application. A few companies like eBay or Amazon.com may be the exception. Relying only on push-based notifications does not offer enough reach. Apple's announcement today, however, makes push-based notifications a lot more interesting.
  • Push-based notifications on smartphones are more of a US-centric phenom. If you are targeting customers in Asia, Africa, India, Latin America, etc., you need SMS -- SMS is the primary application/transport medium on most phones in many countries.
  • Tracking calls-to-action. When does a message drive an action? Clicking through to a URL? Using a coupon? Visiting a store? Calls-to-action can be digital, physical, or calls.
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Get Customer Obsessed Or Perish: Welcome To The Age Of The Customer

Today Forrester released a piece of must-read research for every organization that markets and sells to customers. In Josh Bernoff's report "Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer," he illustrates how customer-led disruption forces firms to throw away old models of competitive differentiation. Competitive barriers like manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery won't save anyone. The report concludes that the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers. In the age of the customer, firms must become customer obsessed.

eBusiness and channel strategy professionals are no strangers to customer-led disruption. Many firms' web strategies are just now finally catching up to the sneak attack of Amazon.com and E-Trade, if they survived at all. What happened in the early '90s will continue to happen again and again. In a companion document that I also released today, I argue that to survive, eBusiness and channel strategy professionals must embrace the principles of agile commerce -- optimizing people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints. Specifically, eBusiness and channel strategy professionals must shift from:

  • Customer acquisition to retention.
  • Siloed channels to touchpoints.
  • Reactive to actionable use of customer data.

I encourage you and everyone in your organzation to read this critical document about surviving and thriving in the age of the customer.

eBay Acquires Magento: What It Means

This morning eBay announced it has agreed to acquire Magento, the open source eCommerce platform that will be combined with other solutions to form a unit within eBay called X.Commerce. eBay already had acquired a minority stake in Magento in 2010, but after this latest transaction, it will own all of Magento. The folks down in San Jose have been busy this past year, paying approximately $2.4 billion for GSI -- which came with a controlling stake in Intershop -- as well as a raft of other mobile commerce solutions such as Milo and RedLaser. This announcement today means:  

  • For Magento users, this is a very good thing. It is time for Magento to mature as a solution and as a business. The same development approach and business practices that can support a small insurgent open source commerce platform do not scale to supporting multiple products with very diverse needs and across many maturing clients. Users of Magento’s enterprise solution have been struggling with support and product traction as Magento invested in the MagentoGo SaaS solution and tried to manage a rodeo of new and existing partners, customer acquisition, and diverse product initiatives. In retrospect this was too much to take on at once, and Magento may have outgrown its ability to deliver on the expectations. With the completion of this acquisition eBay has the ability to clarify the product initiatives, add needed investment to product development, and mature the support given to developers, partners, and customers. A failure to do so will erode the Magento value proposition and see a raft of clients evaluating their long-term commerce capability solution providers and platforms. It will take time for the core challenges to resolve, so for Magento users struggling now this announcement will mean little in the short term. For Magento users in the longer term, this should be a positive.
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What Are The Key Attributes Of An Agile Customer Service Organization?

As Brian Walker discusses in “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce,” traditional ways of describing multichannel commerce no longer work because customers don't interact with companies from a "channel" perspective. As a result, eBusiness professionals must transform how they market, transact, serve, and organize around changing customer experiences.

This has a significant impact on customer service. Agile customer service means providing a consistent and channel-agnostic customer experience across all touchpoints. Let’s think about this from a customer’s perspective: An agile customer service experience means customers can interact with whatever touchpoints they choose -- website, mobile app, kiosk, telephone, IVR -- and all along the way, your organization has identified who they are, knows what their last interaction with you entailed, anticipates what help they might need, and can meaningfully recommend products or services that might enhance their experience.

I am writing a document to explore the attributes of an agile customer service organization and have been speaking with many eBusiness leaders.

The general consensus in the conversations I’ve had to date is that the objective is fairly clear but the path to get there is ambiguous.

At the same time, there is a sense of urgency because consumers are pushing us into technologies to deliver the experience they desire; customers are adopting social media, mobile devices, tablets, and other technologies, and they have increasingly high expectations about how these will help improve or simplify their lives.

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Expedia/Groupon Create A New Travel Marketplace -- Travelers Will Love It, Travel Sellers Will Have To Be Careful

On June 1, 2011 at All Things Digital’s D9 conference, Expedia, the world’s largest online travel company, announced it and Groupon would launch a new travel deals product, “Groupon GetawaysTM With Expedia” (forgive us if we shorten that mouthful to just Groupon Getaways). Both Groupon and Expedia already offer their own assortment of travel deals. Expedia’s TripAdvisor unit has its own “flash sale” offering, SniqueAway. Thanks to the clout of both Expedia and Groupon, Groupon Getaways will pose a significant challenge to Groupon competitor LivingSocial, which offers LivingSocial Escapes, as well as other “daily deal” and “flash sale” sites like Plum District and RueLaLa.

Several factors work in Groupon GetawaysTM with Expedia favor, including:

  • An enormous customer database. Expedia and Groupon state they have more than 50 million combined subscribers – just in the US. That is a gigantic base to which the two companies can start selling (deals are expected to be published starting in late June, 2011).
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