Sony Tablet S: Innovation Won’t Insulate Product Strategists From Amazon-Economics

Sony is no copycat. Its Tablet S, revealed at IFA today, shows true innovation in hardware design. It’s slightly smaller than the iPad, but it feels completely different to hold, with its folded-magazine “wraparound” design. It has high-tech features that set it apart from the iPad and other Android Honeycomb tablets, including DLNA support, an IR blaster, and what Sony calls “quick view/quick touch,” which makes the screen and Web browser extremely responsive and fast-loading.

A bigger step for Sony is what comes on the device. The Tablet S comes preloaded with access to Sony Entertainment Network, including a six-month free subscription to its Music Unlimited service, plus two free PlayStation 1 games—finally, leveraging assets from across different business units, a huge step for Sony. Sony has also negotiated deals for an exclusive window to several new Android tablet apps, including Crackle and Foursquare, which will be preloaded on the device. These are all important product innovations, which combined with Sony’s brand should put Sony’s product ahead of many Android competitors in consumers’ minds.

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Amazon Will Be Tablet Product Strategists’ New Frenemy

We’ve been beating the Amazon tablet drum for a while—in fact, as early as April 2010, my colleague James McQuivey wrote that Amazon's product strategists should “go head to head” with Apple and create its own tablet. Now, on the cusp of Amazon actually doing so (perhaps as early as October), we’re turning up the volume with a new report explaining exactly how, and why, Amazon will disrupt the tablet market.

This report has been in the works for months. We held off publishing it last week out of respect for Steve Jobs, and we have great admiration for his inventions and influence on our culture.

Even though Amazon taking on Apple is a bit like David taking on Goliath (compare the market cap, profits, and cash position of the two companies), Amazon’s willingness to sell hardware at a loss combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market. If Amazon launches a tablet at a sub-$300 price point — assuming it has enough supply to meet demand — we see Amazon selling 3-5 million tablets in Q4 alone.

Amazon’s quick ascension in the tablet market will completely disrupt the status quo. Apple will retain dominant market share, but Amazon will cause product strategists at:

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A Wild And Crazy Week For Technology Marketers

I am back from a very relaxing vacation on the Oregon coast and cannot believe all that has happened during that short time. Google purchases Motorola, HP gets out of the PC business, an earthquake hits the East Coast and Steve Jobs resigns from Apple. And I am not even mentioning the many other interesting announcements that did not get significant coverage this week, such as this, this and this. Can't wait to see what the next week has in store for us...

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Interactive Growth Does Take $$ From Traditional Advertising, Even If Interactive Investments Are Not In Ads

I've received a few questions and have seen some social conversations around the theme "marketing is not advertising" relating to my recent interactive marketing forecast. I in no way meant to imply through the research that marketing and advertising are the same thing, nor is this the point of the research. So if you are hung up on that notion, let me 1) provide a bit of background on the report, 2) recommend that you read the full report -- I think inferring conclusions from the summary slide published in AdAge may be confusing without our detailed definitions, and 3) iterate that the primary conclusion of the report is that spend on interactive media and technology is no longer experimental, but now established budget line items.

I've worked on this report since 2004, and the report originally began as an online *advertising* forecast -- sizing spend on online media, which at that time was primarily display ads. We've done the report 5 times since 2004, and with each new report, it became clear that budgets were growing to include other investments besides online media. So we have adjusted the forecast to best represent what is included in clients' interactive budgets.

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What Makes A Community Successful?

Anyone who follows my research knows that community management is one of my favorite topics. As I speak with marketers about their branded community efforts, the questions that come up most frequently are, “How do I know when my community is 'good?'" and “How many members do I need for my community to be successful?” Interestingly, these are the same questions people would ask me when I was a community manager, before I came to Forrester. Since these questions are clearly on a lot of people’s minds, I set out to answer them — analyst-style.

For my latest report, Community Benchmarking Metrics, I surveyed marketers with branded communities to try to nail down some standard measures of success. What I found was:

  • Standards come in the form of percentages, not hard numbers. For example, in communities that perform on par with averages, 8-12% of the unique visitors to the brand’s main website will visit the community. Of those community visitors, 4-6% will convert to become community members.
  • “Average” performance is consistent across communities of different types, from different industries, and with different goals. 
  •  To achieve typical results, community owners need to go back to basics: Make the community visible and don’t forget to promote it.
  • There are a few things marketers can do to beat the averages. My favorite: have at least one full-time community manager.
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Interactive Marketing Spend Will Near $77 Billion By 2016

By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today.  Search marketing, display advertising, mobile marketing, email marketing, and social media will grow to 26% 35% of all advertising spend within the next five years.**

What does this growth mean for you?

1)      Interactive media has gained legitimacy in the marketing mix. In past forecasts, we found that interactive budgets grew because of marketing experiments, or firms looking for lower-cost alternatives to traditional media. No more. The next five years of growth comes from bigger interactive teams spending sizably to bake emerging media into their strategies for creating rich customer relationships.

2)      Search’s share will shrink. Search marketing (paid search and SEO) will continue to own the largest portion of the interactive marketing pie. But its overall share will decline as marketers shift search spend into biddable display investments, mobile marketing, and even social media.

3)      Display media will rally. Bolstered by advances in audience targeting and bid-based buying approaches, advertisers will renew their love affair with display media. We expect display investments to grow as marketers apply display instead of search. And niche or remnant inventory sells for higher prices due to demand-driven pricing.

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Can Marketers And IT Work Together To Master The Flow Of Your Customer Data?

Marketers, how are you getting along with IT these days? It matters more than it used to. The job your company expects you to do is more and more entwined with technology. And so are the people in your target market.

Our research at Forrester shows almost half of US adults say technology is important to them.  And the ecosystem of suppliers of marketing-centric technologies and services is ballooning.  So whatever your aim as a marketer — whether it’s listening to the market, engaging with potential customers, or measuring the results of those efforts — you can’t do your job without these many technologies of new channels, new services, and new products.

This technology entwinement is especially tight when your company tackles the challenge of mastering the flow of customer data throughout the organization, from inputs across customer touchpoints, to the many ways you subsequently engage those customers. The struggle is not only in how to do this but also in how to do it sustainably: How to remember what data’s been collected, how it’s been used, what the outcomes have been, and on and on.

Where it gets messy is that marketers and IT often sing from different hymnals when it comes to making the most of all the relevant technologies. You’re eager to get to market with exciting new tools for engaging with potential customers, and you’re willing to experiment. But your IT colleagues often seem to be focused above all on cutting costs and avoiding risk — goals that rarely mesh well with what you’re trying to get done as a marketer. Not surprisingly, one marketing exec that Forrester interviewed recently called IT the “Department of No.”

Whereas in the past it may have been possible (even expected!) for marketing and IT to work at arm’s length, it’s not an option anymore.

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RIM: “We Are Committed To The PlayBook”; Still, Its Product Strategists Have A Tough Row To Hoe

Last week, HP announced it would discontinue the TouchPad and all webOS-based products. This was a dramatic reversal in strategy; just a few months ago (in March), I attended HP’s analyst event, during which HP CEO Leo Apotheker presented webOS as a central tenet of HP’s consumer product strategy and said the TouchPad was “the first of hundreds” of devices that would be running webOS, including printers and PCs.

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Decoding A Complex Social Gaming Landscape

If you're a marketer looking to tap an audience of 340 million consumers (and growing strong) through social games, you may find the developer and publisher landscape a bit confusing.  Don't worry, I did too.  After my first social gaming report published, Start To Play With Social Gamers, I received a lot of questions from marketers looking to decipher the differences between leading developers and publishers.  After 2 months of in-depth research, I discovered that this provider landscape was quite confusing.  In fact, several leading developers- those with high monthly and daily average users- don't even offer opportunities for brands in-game.  Moreover, some developers throwing their hat in the ring (due to a sky-rocking industry forecast) don't even develop social games.  And there’s more!

In fact, last week an entirely new platform emerged- Google+.   With Zynga and PopCap publishing games on Google+, opportunities for marketers will continue to grow in parallel with the industry's complexity.  In my upcoming report, Interactive Marketers Guide To Social Gaming: Decoding A Complex Landscape Of Developers And Publishers," I’ll guide marketers through these muddled waters.  Stay tuned.    

Content: The Engine Of Social Media Marketing

At this point, you've most likely set up shop across the social media sphere: a branded Facebook page with multiple tabs, at least one Twitter account, a YouTube channel, a LinkedIn page and a few groups, possibly a community you host on your site, and maybe you've even tested other things like Foursquare, Tumblr, and Groupon. You're waiting to find out just what you can do with Google+. You've probably spent the last few months in what we call the "collecting" stage — using a wide variety of tactics building up your fans, followers, likers, etc. And now that you've built up your communities, you've run into one big question: Now what? If you've done things right, you essentially have an interconnected solar system of owned media in which you can engage your customers and audience over a long period of time — not just during one campaign. The value of this is similar to your email database — but much more dynamic. Because now you can use this community for market research, product development, product launches, brand awareness & support, direct marketing, and loyalty. And this community will act as your advocates, sharing relevant content and experiences with their friends. But people are fickle and unless you continue to be relevant, you won't get much of their attention.

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