CMOs And CIOs Tackle Technology: Q&A With Robert Mead, CMO, And Michael Mathias, CIO, At Aetna

Recently my colleague Sharyn Leaver and I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Mead and Michael Mathias, the CMO and CIO, respectively, at Aetna. They will be speaking at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum on September 22, 2011, in Boston, so this serves as a bit of a preview to what should be an eye-opening presentation. Enjoy!

David Cooperstein: What external changes drove you to build a deeper partnership with your technology peers?

Robert Mead, senior vice president, Aetna marketing, product and communications: The US healthcare system is fragmented and well behind the curve in terms of price transparency and consumer-friendly products and services. The deep partnership between technology and marketing at Aetna lets us put leading-edge technologies and powerful tools and applications directly into the hands of people so that they can be confident consumers and informed patients. Our close collaboration with our colleagues in technology is driven by a few external factors:

  • The increasing cost of care and the corresponding changes in employer-based insurance — consumers are being asked to take more ownership of their health and wellness and their healthcare spending.
  • The introduction and rapid adoption of technology empowers consumers (and patients) to engage in the healthcare system where they are in life and in the way they want to be connected.
  • Healthcare reform aims to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans into the marketplace as consumers.
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Time to Optimize For The Era of Agile Commerce

Hard to believe, but it has been six months since our report “Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce” has gone live on our site. Since that time I have had the opportunity to have countless conversations with eBusiness and multichannel leaders about what this new era of consumer connectivity, technology advancement and the changing relationships they now have with their customers. We’ve talked about how their technology strategy, organizational approach, business metrics, supply chain, and customer experience have been evolving and what they have been learning along the way. We’ve talked about strategies to drive business transformation. We have talked about how to get started. And we have talked about how difficult it can be to change the way companies work.

Just the other day I had a conversation with a senior eBusiness exec, and I thought she summed it up very well. She said, “The thing is, the customer is already there. No matter how much we want to think things are the same, they are not.”

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Enter the Commerce API


Today Demandware announced their much anticipated Open Commerce API. While many clients may not be in a position to take advantage of this immediately, the value of APIs like this extends well beyond the typical feature release. That value will be in enabling their clients to extend the customer touchpoints they can manage with the core commerce platform well beyond their web and mobile commerce sites. In the era of agile commerce, commerce platforms like Demandware’s will increasingly be leveraged to power many consumer shopping and buying touchpoints  such as mobile apps, kiosks, in-store/branch solutions, interactive TV, social commerce, and embedded commerce. You can look to Tesco’s mobile shopping solution in Korea, or Ralph Lauren’s embedded commerce in their New York Times iPad App ads to see how a commerce API can be used. Robust, secure, well supported APIs will enable examples like these to be done in developer friendly ways to streamline development, enable innovation, and ensure quality customer experiences that leverage a consistent back-end commerce solution.

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Apply Game Mechanics To Your Marketing Efforts And Boost Engagement

Use of game dynamics is nothing new.  In fact, gamification elements have been used in marketing strategies for a long time.  In my new report, Gamification Of Marketing Strategies Boosts Consumer Engagement, we take a close look at gamificiation through the lens of the Interactive Marketer and answer why it's one of the buzzwords of late. 

Forrester defines gamification as the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.  We found that there are four factors contributing an increase of gamification’s impact:

  • Consumers want it.  60% of Gen Yers are looking for new ways to entertain themselves.
  • Social media can enhance it.  Gamification motivators- such as status- are enhanced when shared across one’s social graph.  (Elizabeth just unlocked the Foodie Badge!)
  • Vendors can enable it.  Bunchball, Badgeville and BigDoor Media all offer SaaS platforms with game mechanics.
  • Early users have proven it.  HP, Sephora and Bravo TV to name a few.
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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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Co-Creation Contests: Q&A With The CEO Of Napkin Labs

This is the first in a series of question-and-answer blog posts with the CEOs of the vendors included in my recent Forrester Wave™: Co-Creation Contest Vendors, Q3 2011 (blog and report (for clients).

First up is Riley Gibson, CEO of Napkin Labs. Napkin Labs, a Boulder, Colorado-based shop, was identified as a "Strong Performer" in that report.

Doug:    Co-creation contests are a new opportunity for product strategy professionals to solve business challenges, but many people are unfamiliar with them. What is your “elevator pitch” to potential clients about co-creation contests and the benefits they deliver?

Riley:     Napkin Labs gives companies their own crowdsourcing platform to make their social networks more productive. Our platform is simple enough to launch in minutes and has a variety of apps that make collaboration, brainstorming, and consumer research simple for small businesses and large brands.


Doug:    Why should product strategy professionals consider co-creation a business imperative at this point in time?

Riley:     First it was email. Then it was social media. Now it's co-creation and crowdsourcing. Every new communication channel is an opportunity to build customer loyalty and gain insights in new ways. And eventually every company has to do it to remain relevant.

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The Data Digest: Profiling Digital Dads

One of the responsibilities of my role includes analyzing data in complex ways to help our clients understand how their target groups behave and if there are more relevant ways to segment them based on the results. However, sometimes it just makes sense to take a step back and look at some basic demographic profiles as a starting point for further analysis. We developed a new deliverable that we call Demographic Overview, and we kicked off the series with digital dads, followed by digital moms, and these will soon be complemented with digital natives and digital Seniors.

So why is it important for companies to look at dads? Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that s lightly more than one-third of US online men ages 18 to 50 are parents of a child younger than 18 living with them. Companies need to understand how the digital profile of dads differs from non-dads, as their behaviors influence the tech behaviors of their kids.

Some of our findings include that in general, dads are more likely to use the Internet as a resource, while non-dads are more active in entertainment-focused activities such as social networking. But dads know how to use social media to get their point across: 72% of dads who regularly engage in social activities have posted a review of a product or service on Twitter in the past 12 months, as compared with only 57% of non-dads.

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The Value of Live Video Chat

I have to confess, I was skeptical when I first encountered the idea of live video chat. I didn’t see how the value of seeing the person I was chatting with; after all, not seeing the person I’m speaking to on the telephone has never been an impediment to my ability to trust my bank, insurance company, or favorite retailers.

But when deployed in the right circumstances – specifically, when it leverages the value of a visual element into the chat interaction – live video chat has some potentially compelling use cases:

  • Retailer Lands’ End offers live video chat with a personal shopping assistant who can show products. In my interaction, I was able to see the size of a handbag more meaningfully than just reading its measurements.
  • Live video chat can offer a private in-person consultation. For example, specialty pharmacy implemented a webcam-based video chat program that allows customers to have demonstrations on topics such as how to inject medication properly.
  • Live video can help develop relationships. For example, a hotel offering could offer live video chat between its most frequent guests and the concierge at hotels they visit frequently; or a financial institution could use video chat between preferred customers and their financial advisors.
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Excited To Bring Fresh Insights To Forrester

As the newest addition to the market insights team, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Gina Sverdlov, and I recently joined Forrester as a consumer insights analyst.

I am very excited to be here! My background is in economics, consulting, advertising, and using quantitative methods to provide actionable insights for my clients. In my role here at Forrester, I am going to focus on bringing our multiple data sources to life and turning numbers to actionable insights. I am enthusiastic about engaging with our clients to devise strategies that will be successful in today’s changing market dynamics.

For my first Forrester document, ”Connection: The Spark That Lights Up The European Digital Home,” I’ve been looking at device ownership in Europe and how recent trends compare with the IHS Global Insight Economic Outlook. What I found, for example, is that laptop penetration in Europe has increased from 20% in 2006 to 51% in 2010 amid hefty declines in European retail sales in 2008 and 2009 and personal disposable income in 2009 and 2010. As a follow-up, I’ve identified how the uptake of different emerging technologies like LCD, plasma, and 3D TV correlate with ownership of other devices and where there are opportunities for consumer electronics (CE) companies.

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Forrester Wave: Co-Creation Contest Vendors, Q3 2011

You have no idea how happy I am to type these words: The Forrester Wave™: Co-Creation Contest Vendors, Q3 2011 has been published!

What's a co-creation contest? I'm so glad you asked. A co-creation contest is one type of social co-creation engagement that allows product strategy professionals to involve consumers directly in the product development process. Co-creation contests offer an innovative take on the generic crowdsourcing model to produce ideas, designs, content, or solutions that product strategy professionals can put to use. Typically, a challenge is posted to a community that works individually or collaboratively on solutions, with the best responses earning rewards. The community can consist of a variety of interesting participants, as depicted here:

The problem ultimately dictates the appropriate community to engage -- of which there are many.Vendors in this space generally offer three things to their clients: access to a community, a technology platform on which to interact with said community, and professional services to ensure a successful engagement.

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