The look of the Internet is about to go through a major transformation now that ICANN, the organization that oversees the web name space, has approved the plan to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Instead of being limited to domain names that end in the familiar dot-com, dot-net, and others, companies will be able to put their brand name or category to the right of the dot. So Marriott Hotels could apply for .marriott or even .hotel. The city of London plans to operate .london.
There's been a lot of debate about whether there's a need for TLDs, with many marketers arguing that there's nothing you can do with a dot-brand that you can't do with a brand dot-com. What these people are missing is that you are not just applying for another web address; you are applying for the right to operate a domain registry at the root of the Internet, which opens up all kinds of new business opportunities.
Companies are waking up to the business value of customer experience. Many have made customer experience a strategic priority and have dedicated teams to oversee customer experience efforts. Yet consumers report that their customer experiences with roughly two-thirds of US brands range from just OK to downright bad. Lackluster interactions plague every industry and every channel.
The root cause of this dilemma? Tunnel vision.
Many organizations place too much emphasis on top-of-mind channels such as the Web and social media, ignoring hundreds of touchpoints that influence customers' perceptions of the brand — such as call-center conversations, retail displays, product packaging, shipping invoices, and physical receipts. In addition, companies place too much of the responsibility for customer service on frontline employees — but in reality, behind-the-scenes employees from departments as diverse as finance, legal, and marketing can play an equal or even greater role in determining the nature of customer interactions.
Take Sprint's marketing department as an example. Because this behind-the-scenes team did not promote the benefits of Sprint's network in its ads — and competitors' marketing departments did — customers perceived the Sprint network to be lagging, regardless of the actual network performance they experienced.
A fundamental transformation of the way brands and consumers connect on the Internet is amid us. Icann, the authority responsible for Internet domains, has approved a plan to expand the 22 currently available domains (.com, .net, etc.) to allow trusted brands and organizations to apply to own and operate their own gTLDs (generic top-level domains). In just a few years, new brand gTLDs will impact the way consumers search for and find products online as recognized brands switch away from .com to their own .brand top-level domains. URL paths used today for categories, products, and marketing campaign landing pages (e.g., www.apple.com/iphone) will be replaced by new shorter, catchier URLs (e.g., iphone.apple).
eBusiness professionals must carefully evaluate this change and start the process of mapping out how owning their .brand domain will impact their eCommerce sites. I recommend that Forrester clients read our latest research report written by my colleague Jeff Ernst and myself, .Brand And The Impact For eBusiness, which outlines the reasons why eBusiness leaders and their marketing counterparts must carefully evaluate the significant opportunity that owning gTLDs for the their brand or brands presents.
We just announced the winners of Forrester’s 2011 Voice Of The Customer Awards at our Customer Experience Forum this afternoon. We received more than 40 nominations, and the nominees really upped their games again this year — another sign that voice of the customer (VoC) programs are rapidly maturing.
To evaluate the submissions, each of our four judges graded each nomination based on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. The nominees with the 10 best scores were named finalists. The top three scorers were named winners.
And here are the results . . .
The 10 finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
The three winners (also in alphabetical order) are:
Adobe. The software provider stood out with its comprehensive approach and focus on executive engagement. In addition to other activities, the firm created a Customer Immersion Program where executives step into customers’ shoes for a day, attempt relevant customer scenarios, discuss opportunities for improvement with frontline employees, and engage with actual customers. This effort brings customer and employee experiences to life and keeps executives connected with the on-the-ground reality of Adobe’s business.
In my ongoing-yet-fruitless quest to find the great social commerce success story, I’ll talk to anyone who will talk to me about the topic. I talked this week to a "venture capitalist" who shall remain nameless, and we had the following conversation:
VC: I’ve seen social commerce success. I have. I’ve seen commerce success on Facebook.
Me: Really? Are you referring to maybe one of the marketplaces on Facebook? Or ShopSocially?
VC: No, no one’s heard of this company. No one in the Valley has heard of this company. Only I know about this company.
Me: And this is a business that can scale?
VC: It’s sooooo scalable. I’ve seen it scale.
VC: They make millions and millions of dollars. I’ve seen it.
Me: Can you tell me who you’re talking about?
VC: I . . . I’m not at liberty to say the name. They want to stay under the radar. They don’t want anyone to know about their secret sauce.
Me: Really? They’ve discovered something that no one, not Silicon Valley, not Facebook’s army of developers, not any retailer in the world has yet to discover?
VC: Hey, I don’t need YOU to believe me! I’m happy to just make my money.
Product launches often have a reputation for being constrained by tightly managed internal processes, cross-organizational misalignment, and closed communication loops. So how does a tech marketer improve the experience? I have been involved with many product launches and events during my 15-year career in the high-tech industry and have seen the good, bad, and the ugly of each of these constraints. In my experience, social media has provided the "good." It loosens internal processes by allowing customer conversations to influence the direction of a product launch. It brings organizations together through the sharing of data captured by monitoring tools. It opens communication by allowing internal product launch teams to interact with customers, in real time, throughout each stage of the launch. If done correctly, all of these benefits will lead to more effective (and successful) product launch events. My new "The Social Tech Product Launch" report shows how it is possible to turn your inverted product launch into a Social Butterfly.
How have you used social media and listening platforms in your product launch processes?
For this week's #IMChat -- a weekly tweet jam hosted by the interactive marketing team at Forrester -- we’re tackling the oft overlooked challenges of B2B email. Email marketing consistently acts as a revenue work horse for B2C as well as B2B companies. But our research shows that compared to B2C, B2B companies are less likely to use email, adopt common best practices, or increase funding of existing programs. Joining the tweet jam to help me (@sarahsglass) discuss the challenges B2B marketers face is Kristin Hambelton (@KMHambelton), vice president of marketing, Neolane.
To participate, just follow the #IMChat hashtag at 2:00 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about the rules of engagement, visit this community discussion on The Forrester Community For Interactive Marketing Professionals. To read some past archives, visit the documents section of the same community.
Here are some of the questions we'll discuss during the tweet jam:
What are the common pitfalls of B2B marketing?
How are deliverability concerns different for B2B marketers versus B2C marketers?
How does B2B email fit into the buying life cycle?
How are you segmenting your B2B emails to make them most relevant to your users?
What measurement techniques are you using to track lead generation?
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® is growing! And we have just filled in a big space in our global map with Russian Technographics. There is probably no need to explain why Russia is an important market. It has a population of 140 million, with almost three-quarters living in urban areas. Russian consumers have the highest disposable income out of all BRIC markets, and cities like Moscow and St Petersburg are full of well-educated, Western-oriented consumers whose income is around three times the national average. Apart from demographics, there are other factors that make Russian consumers appealing, interesting, and unique:
Their love for technology. According to Forrester Technographics segmentation, 60% of Russians are technology optimists. To put this in perspective, this is considerably higher than any other European markets we survey. Already, 65% have a home PC, and Internet penetration has reached 56%. Broadband adoption is lagging behind at 37%;these numbers are below the European average. However, where Russians are missing on the PC ownership and Internet connection, they compensate with mobile phones: Almost every urban Russian today owns a mobile phone, and almost one in five use the mobile Internet.
Change is the only constant. This truism is one of the reasons why web intelligence is so much fun to cover at Forrester Research. Web analytics, site optimization, mobile measurement, and the online marketing suite are constantly evolving, which is not only fascinating but will - one would hope - lead to increasingly productive and relevant marketing.
The market moved again yesterday, as Hubspot announced the acquisition of Performable. You can read the official Hubspot announcement here and the matching Performable announcement here. I had the opportunity this morning to speak with Hubspot's Kirsten Knipp to learn more about the transaction. The terms of the transaction are undisclosed, but clearly Hubspot is feeling empowered in the wake of their recent funding round. The entire Performable team is staying on board, and it appears to be a very collegial meeting of the minds; Performable CEO David Cancel and Hubspot CTO Dharmesh Shah have known one another for several years.
Mobile apps are undoubtedly cool, and executives at leading online retailers have been mandating a presence of their brand in the Apple and Android app stores, but eBusiness professionals must focus on building a cohesive mobile strategy that clearly identifies the case and role for apps within their organizations. Apps are great ways to engage with your customers, but will they deliver incremental revenue above and beyond what the mobile Web is already doing? In her recent mobile commerce forecast, Sucharita Mulpuru explains that mobile commerce is set to transform retail, despite only accounting for 2% of online web sales today. In my new report The State Of Mobile Commerce Apps, I peel back the covers on the hype and take a serious look at why, when, and how eBusiness professionals should approach their mobile app strategy. Some of the issues I explore include:
The mobile web versus app debate. The debate is irrelevant, consumers are using both in equal measures; however, developing an app for apps' sake is missing the point and will only disappoint your customers. eBusiness professionals must develop unique app experiences that deliver multichannel innovations and raise the engagement of the consumer with your brand.
Keeping up with the explosion of consumer touchpoints. Having an iPhone app was the priority back in 2010, but in 2011 many eBusinesses are adding Android, iPad, and Windows Phone 7 apps. The opportunity for apps also extends beyond the consumer. Retailers are investing in apps for store associates empowered with mobile devices, in-store kiosks, and interactive TV.