Google changed the web analytics market forever with the introduction of Google Analytics in 2005 (for a dose of nostalgia check out Brett Crosby’s original blog post). It was easy to use, delivered as a service, integrated with Google AdWords, and most of all it was FREE! This was revolutionary, and in the beginning it was an exciting way to democratize analytics, giving companies of all sizes access to tools that had traditionally been the domain of large, well funded corporations. It’s no surprise that in terms of sheer adoption, Google Analytics became – and still is – the most popular web analytics tool on Earth, serving hundreds of thousands of businesses.
But then something interesting happened: Google Analytics took on a life of its own. Strictly speaking, Google Analytics was not the leading offering in terms of features and functionality, and Google didn’t even offer direct services or support. So what accounts for its success?
Community. Google cultivated a large, active, and cooperative community of users, bolstered by strong online resources and their base of certified partners.
Ease of use. Google innovated in usability, making analytics accessible – even appealing – for non-analysts and marketers.
Enterprise penetration. Google Analytics gradually found its way into the enterprise as a secondary tool – sometimes by design, sometimes not! – for marketing applications and audit or backup purposes.
The new Amazon Silk promises to speed tablet web browsing. It also provides Amazon's core business with a secret weapon against other retailers. Amazon Silk is essentially a browser that, by default, routes all traffic through a proxy server. Amazon's back end consolidates multiple calls for images, libraries, and cookies into a single request. The proxy can even pre-fetch future page requests by users (think of search results pages).
How does Amazon Silk provide a competitive advantage to Amazon? Each Kindle Fire device is registered with an individual who is known to and maintains an extensive purchase history with Amazon. Amazon Silk allows Amazon to collect the users' browse behavior beyond Amazon-owned web properties. Regardless of where customers make purchases and whether those products are digital or material, Amazon can use the data collected to its advantage.
Amazon's new layer of Customer Intelligence permits it to:
Improve customer recognition. Amazon can maintain customer identity without facing the problems of cookie deletion or Flash LSOs. Should users access Twitter or Facebook through the browser, Amazon will have access to social identity as well.
Last week at Facebook's developer conference, the massive social network announced a few big changes. Loosely veiled in the enhanced features is a startling amount of new data, giving Facebook even more capabilities to track and learn from consumers sharing behavior, networks, purchases, songs they listen to, and so on.
While there were no direct announcements about what this means for marketers, it's still brought a fair amount of discussion around social marketing, customer data, and the future of consumer privacy online. Last week I tweeted a link to this summary (and pointed out the URL's passive aggressive analysis). But since then, the concerns around Facebook's use of data have only increased. So what does this mean to Customer Intelligence professionals?
The way I talk about customer privacy and social data - the information you can collect and manage from social media channels - is that it's a big, gray, squishy, and constantly moving line. It's not black and white. It's not a thin line. And the overall sentiment about how privacy online works seems to shift constantly. The best thing Customer Intelligence teams can do today is to make sure they're on the right side of that line.
Analytics and creativity are seldom used in the same sentence. The natural instinct is to delineate the two as left-brain and right-brain pursuits. Analytics and creative teams speak different languages, use different tools, and find inspiration in different places.
Customer Intelligence (CI) professionals are usually closer to the world of analytics. They capture, manage, analyze, and apply heaps of customer data using advanced analytical tools and techniques. But in order for them to step out of a perceived geeky image, CI professionals should think about how to add a dash of creativity into their roles.
Analytics made its way to the creative world especially with various testing tools, but has enough creativity made its way into analytical projects? How can analysts and CI pros add some creativity?
Ask the same questions, differently. Arriving at the hypothesis or questions to pursue when analyzing data can be an output of a creative brainstorm. Framing the question to ask of the data is as important as the analysis itself.
Summarize data in creative ways. New types of data are pushing the limits of what traditional data mining and analytical tools can do. This requires creative ways of uncovering relationships between seemingly unrelated entities.
Make the data sing. Data visualization as both a data-mining tool as well as a presentation method is fast becoming popular to communicate complex trends and results into a digestible format, especially when the audience is not analytically inclined.
My Customer Intelligence colleagues and I, like many others, can't help but wonder how Carol Bartz's departure from Yahoo! is going to play out for the digital behemoth. Shar VanBoskirk's post last week summarizes Yahoo!'s current state, and I agree with her assessment that the company's assets are worth far more piecemeal than as a whole. As she points out, Yahoo!'s advertising capabilities are one of its greatest assets.
But from a CI perspective, so is its OpenID-based Yahoo! ID, which enables single sign-on (SSO) functionality for its more than 273mm global email-service users. Now, while a relative minority of those users actually take advantage of Yahoo! ID across the web today, the demand for SSO and federated identity is growing such that Yahoo!'s broad user base and consumer trust is already tremendously valuable.
So, who are the "unusual suspects" that have the most interesting opportunity for acquiring Yahoo!'s personal services/communications/identity management business?
Wal-Mart. Yep, you read it right. Wal-Mart, despite being the world's largest retailer, continues to lose digital market share to Amazon, and it clearly wants to change that. Last month, it restructured its online organization to better align with its brick-and-mortar presence and just this week announced plans to to buy "key assets" of mobile ad targeter OneRiot. Yahoo! ID would give Wal-Mart the single sign-on capability that it doesn't have today, with some nice benefits over Amazon's closed-ecosystem identity service. And Yahoo!'s user base is, demographically speaking, a slightly better fit for Wal-Mart than other major big-box retailers.
Maybe you’re working for a software company that suddenly faces a free cloud-based solution (funded by advertising). Or perhaps you’re in a clothing retail chain whose market share is under attack from an offshore company using webcams to offer virtual fitting rooms and cut-to-order clothing. If you are employed by a brick-and-mortar retailer of DVD rentals, music, or books, you’ve already been disrupted and have either found a safe niche to hide in or are in the process of liquidating your stock.
Disruption cannot be avoided. Today, rapid changes in technology, customer preferences, competitive capabilities, market dynamics, even government regulations, make continual adaptation a requirement to avoid disruption, which can result in market share and even business loss. Can you help your company prepare for disruption? Even more valuable: Can you help your company be the one that has the insights to disrupt its competitors?!
For market insights professionals, the constant threat of disruption creates a new mandate: Provide the insights that help stakeholders understand where, what, how, how much, and why changes need to be made. So:
How well can you hear the voice of the customer?
How well do you understand competitive capabilities?
Have you worked through potential change scenarios with stakeholders?
Do you have the ability to spot early signs of change?
Do you have a plan for what you’ll do when change happens?
An article in yesterday’s Ad Age led with a fascinating premise — that investments in technology and innovation may provide future breakthrough for Wal-Mart. That’s Wal-Mart. Not Apple, or Google, or Samsung, but Wal-Mart — the world’s biggest retailer.
Forrester has been writing for some time about how technology management must change to deliver business results, a phenomenon we call business technology (BT). The implications for Customer Intelligence professionals are immense. CI teams are often among the more technically oriented of their marketing brethren, and they are steeped in data and analytics, but the best CI pros also act as customer strategists — helping the company to better understand the customer and to put the customer squarely at the core of the business.
To do so requires a lot of BT involvement. For too long, we’ve heard that IT is from Mars, and marketing is from Venus, but to harness the full power of Customer Intelligence, BT and CI must form a deep bond and learn to collaborate. To help CI professionals on this journey, Rob Brosnan will soon publish a report introducing the idea of a Marketing Technology Office.
And to help CI pros, CMOs, and CIOs figure out how to emulsify marketing and technology, Forrester will be hosting its first CIO-CMO Forum next week on 9/22 in Boston. I’ll be co-moderating a session with my colleague Gene Leganza — we hope to see many of you there!
Over the weekend, an experience with Apple prompted me to think about marketing technology’s role in creating economic moats. According to Warren Buffet:
In days of old, a castle was protected by the moat that circled it. The wider the moat, the more easily a castle could be defended, as a wide moat made it very difficult for enemies to approach. A narrow moat did not offer much protection and allowed enemies easy access to the castle. To Buffett, the castle is the business and the moat is the competitive advantage the company has. He wants his managers to continually increase the size of the moats around their castles.
Apple’s retail presence is both a revenue engine and a cornerstone of its customer experience strategy. Retail pulls in average revenue of $10.8 million per store for Q3, 2011, generating the highest retail sales per square foot of all US retailers. Importantly, the stores guarantee the company a beachhead from which the company can educate consumers and resolve problems directly. For the quarter, 73.7 million people visited Apple stores.