What I Learned In Singapore About The State Of Digital Marketing, And What YOU Can Do About It

I am back stateside after last week’s trip to Singapore for Microsoft’s audience targeting event, and I’m still recovering. Not only am I (slowly, painfully) readjusting to this time zone, I’m still processing everything I saw, experienced, and learned about the digital marketing ecosystem in Asia.

The abbreviated version for digital marketers with an Asian presence: There’s plenty of opportunity but lots of work to be done.  

I was fortunate enough to meet with several agency folks while there – from Omnicom (OMG, Annalect), Publicis (Zenith), and WPP (MEC). And I was struck by two overarching themes:

  1. Agencies want their clients to broaden the scope of their digital marketing endeavors – trying new audience targeting methods like retargeting and behavioral targeting, upgrading their approach to interactive measurement by choosing the right metrics and moving beyond last click attribution, investing more heavily in creative development to better match creative messaging to audience segment. But they are perhaps more conservative than their stateside counterparts when it comes to pushing for change.
  2. Their clients aren’t doing much to help them change the status quo. I heard about click-based measurement, 2-3 week campaigns that leave little time for optimization and meaningful learnings, and, overall, sub-optimal investments in digital relative to traditional media.
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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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Apple Store 2.0 = The End Of Kiosks As We Know Them

Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a report called “Taking In-Person Self-Service From Blah To Brilliant.” Here’s an excerpt: “Speaking of steel-enclosed stale fruitcakes, there's been a dearth of evolution — let alone revolution — in kiosk fixture design. Forrester has attended semi-annual kiosk industry conferences since 2005, and the only thing staler than the kiosks’ designs have been the bagels.”

In addition to boring kiosk enclosures, my research from the time found kiosk software riddled with usability problems — like missing content, confusing language, bad grammar, inappropriate pacing, and weak and annoying feedback — in industries as varied as retail, financial services, and transportation.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. Until last week.

With the launch of the Apple Store 2.0, Apple ushered in a new era of in-store self-service. In my post about the news, I suggested that this might mark Apple’s entry into an in-store customer experience platform: “For years, Apple employees have had the seemingly magical ability to check customers out from anywhere in the store. Now, with the addition of relatively cheap interactive signage and employee paging, Apple is positioned to sell a more complete in-store customer experience solution to companies ranging from independent boutique owners to multinational banks.”

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The Art Of Listening

"It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen" - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I had the privilege of wisdom to listen to many individuals from various B2B and B2C companies last week at the Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas. One of my favorite aspects of my new analyst job here at Forrester is to meet with tech marketers and hear about the creative ways many of them are using social media to deliver customer value. The individuals I had the pleasure to meet at IT Forum last week certainly did not disappoint, and these discussions were the highlights of my time spent in lovely downtown Las Vegas (insert sarcastic tone here for I am not a big fan of Las Vegas).   

A few key takeaways I had from IT Forum were the following: 1) The lines that once divided B2C and B2B are beginning to blur; 2) Companies are looking for new and improved ways to obtain deeper, more meaningful engagements with customers; and 3) Social media continues to be an area of focus for many companies, albeit many are looking for more effective B2B social media channels, i.e., in addition to Facebook and Twitter.

That said, some of the research I will be conducting in the upcoming months will touch upon each of these topics. I would love to hear your thoughts on your B2B social media strategies! I am here to listen, after all ;-)

A Love Gone Bad: What Can DVRs Teach Us About Customer Intelligence?

Do you remember your first digital video recorder? Most of us probably started with Tivo, or perhaps a box provided by our cable company. The DVR forever altered how we watch television and introduced the concept of "time shifting" to the media world, much to the consternation of TV networks and advertisers.  

The DVR arrived in my home in 2003, and things haven't been the same since. I'm a busy guy - I have a young family, I travel a lot, all the normal stuff - so the freedom afforded by the DVR from the tyranny of network schedules immediately transformed my TV viewing experience. At first it was enough to record my favorite shows and then watch them at my convenience. But it became so much more: I could easily search for and discover new shows and films, I could record and store my favorite shows and films for a rainy day, and I no longer had to watch commercials! I learned to curate video content, much as I manage my music in iTunes; it's just another stream of media to consume.

(Side note: anyone out there have younger kids who have grown up with a DVR? It's fascinating to take note of their conditioning; my children have never known a world without DVRs and are completely used to watching whatever they want when they want it, and are utterly mystified by the concept of commercials during a program.)

Perhaps the biggest impact for me was the change in how I watch sports. I enjoy sports, particularly NCAA basketball and football (go Illini!), NFL (go Bears!), Formula 1, tennis, golf, and I'm occasionally drawn to obscure sports in the middle of the night such as the Scottish Caber Toss or Australian Rules Football. With the DVR I could watch NCAA basketball games in . . . just 40 minutes, not two hours! I was now immune to insufferably long NFL games, chock full of TV time-outs, halftime show pageantry, and constant holding penalties. 

Life was good.

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Introducing “Social Maturity”: How Social Media Transforms Companies

We've been working on a major piece of research to answer a fundamental question now affecting our clients: “How do companies change as they adopt social technologies?” Today, we’ve published the report: Accelerating Your Social Maturity: How To Move From Social Experimentation To Business Transformation, which you can also find as a new chapter in the newly updated paperback version of the Groundswell book. Staying true to the nature of the research, this was a collaborative effort involving analysts from all nineteen of the roles Forrester serves across Marketing & Strategy, IT, and the Technology Industry, but it was ultimately written to interactive marketers like you who are often on the front lines of social media for their organization.

So what did we learn? The biggest insight that came from this research is that, no matter what industry your company is in, what geographies you reside in, or what audience you’re targeting, large organizations tend to go through common stages of change as they adopt and use social technologies for business. We call this process of change “social maturity,” and we've outlined the steps to accelerate from one stage to the next. In fact, combining survey data of 95 respondents involved in social media at companies with more than 1,000 employees, interviews with more than 30 companies at all stages of maturity, and a wide range of existing research, we were able to plot each stage onto the following bell curve that reads right to left (you may recognize this model from the Diffusion Of Innovations theory):

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Windows 8 Revealed: Microsoft Transforms Windows For The Post-PC Era

In a coordinated, trans-continental series of presentations at Computex in Taipei and All Things D:9 in Palos Verdes, California, Microsoft revealed key details about the next version of its Windows operating system, code-named “Windows 8.” Windows 8 is a “reimagining” of Windows from top to bottom: new chipsets, new hardware, a new user interface, and a new application model. Microsoft has not yet announced a release date (or year) for Windows 8, but intends for Windows 8 to power everything from tablets to clamshells to desktops and larger surfaces. The next version of Windows will:

  • Run natively on system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs, including ARM-based processors.The importance of this development is hard to overstate. Windows on ARM means that Windows devices will get online faster and stay online longer. They can take on new form factors, including tablets and hardware that has yet to be invented.
  • Deliver touch-first experiences, while supporting legacy peripherals and devices. Windows 7 “supported” touch but was not “touch-first,” a distinction apparent to anyone observing the use of a Windows 7 tablet or an HP TouchSmart PC. Windows 8 works with keyboards and mice but is truly touch-first, with a redesigned start screen (no more “start” menu!) and a tile-based UI similar to Windows Phone 7.
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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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Can There Be Device-Agnostic Research?

About six weeks ago, I attended the Mobile Research conference 2011 in London, where a variety of vendors and clients talked about their experiences with mobile as a research methodology. They shared a range of mobile research methodologies, like using text messages in emerging markets, mobile ethnographic studies, geolocation tracking, and mobile behavioral tracking data. You can find most of the presentations here, and if you want to see me in action as roving reporter, you can click here.

During the whole conference, there was a clear line between the benefits and challenges of online research versus mobile research, and how the two can strengthen each other. Then at the end of the second day, someone asked the following question to the audience: “Do you consider tablets a PC or mobile device?” The answer was almost unanimous: a mobile device.

This got me thinking about the whole concept of mobile research in more detail. In fact, I was wondering if something like a mobile research conference would still exist in a couple of years, because the rapid technological developments of smartphones and tablets will blur the line between mobile and online research. Can we, as researchers, continue to define the research methodology in the future, or are the respondents going to do that? This line of thinking led me to ask this question to our community members: Should research be device-agnostic?

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Velocity, Volume, Value: Can Sales Enablement Professionals Help Drive These Critical Pipeline Metrics?

While the emerging disciplines and practices of effective sales enablement are taking shape as I type, a gut check now and then on progress makes sense. Stories are what I like to hear, because I can judge pretty well whether my organization could do what another did. It's a lot like science – do you think you could duplicate that experiment and get the same results?

This Friday, June 3rd, in Burlington, Mass., I will push some peers on the main stage, and folks in the audience as well, to make real for each other the pains and progress they have experienced in tackling the SE challenge at their organizations during the Mass Technology Leadership Council Summit. To get the conversation started, I will tee up what Forrester is seeing and suggesting, and afterwards we will turn to two panels for more of our collective reality check. The first features two pairs of sales and marketing executives working as a sales enablement team at their respective companies who will share what alignment means in practical terms, and more importantly, what it gets them in the way of enablement results. 

The second panel will go deeper into the tools and techniques each is using to drive some measurable success. And yes, I will push them to get specific . . .

If you have a story to share here, what you did, how you did it, please do. If you want to hear some others and can make it to Burlington, Mass. on Friday, I will look for you.