It's Time To Start Thinking About Social Media Training

Over the past several months, I’ve been hearing a lot of clients say they’re ready for the next step in social media. Many marketers —probably most of you reading this post — have already established your initial social footprints and are ready to move on to the next phase of social media maturity. But as my colleague Sean Corcoran’s social maturity curve shows, the further along you move, the more people you need to involve to keep your social trains running — and that introduces more risk.

One of the most important ways marketers are avoiding problems as more colleagues start participating in social programs is to spearhead training programs in their companies.  My latest research explores the spectrum of these training programs, which ranges from casual all the way through formal certification. 

You can see from this chart that training programs are developed across four dimensions: content, delivery, participants, and measurement. The programs don’t always fall firmly and neatly into one level of difficulty across all these segments. Rather, training evolves as the company’s commitment to social media evolves, moving through formats till formalization is achieved. Usually:

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An Updated Look At The Web Analytics Market

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve published "The Forrester Wave™: Web Analytics, Q4 2011." The Wave methodology is Forrester’s time-tested, exhaustive, and transparent approach to vendor evaluations. This research is based on data gathered through extensive vendor briefings, product demonstrations, customer reference calls, and online user surveys. We evaluated seven leading vendors against 80 criteria and gathered reference feedback from more than 160 user companies.

This Wave focused on established vendors that offer web analytics products targeted at enterprise clients. We evaluated the following companies: Adobe, AT Internet, comScore, Google, IBM, Webtrends, and Yahoo. Forrester clients can read the full report and access the underlying scorecard details for each vendor. And don’t forget that the Forrester Wave scorecard also includes an interactive tool allowing users to customize the Wave model with personalized criteria weightings. 

I’ve been asked several times why this Wave focuses on web analytics as opposed to a broader digital analytics or online marketing suite approach. I’m not ruling those options out for the future, but today the answer is simple: because web analytics is still challenging. My research agenda is heavily influenced by the questions and projects we address for our customers. As of this writing, more than half of my client inquiries are still about the technology, processes, staffing, and best practices of web analytics. That tells me that web analytics is a topic that still deserves our attention.

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Kick Out The Tills, CI Professionals

Mike Brown, CIO of Lowe’s, in an interview with Bloomberg on the purchase of 42,000 iPhones as point of sale (POS) devices:

Forget about the competition, we are playing catch-up with the customer psyche.

CI professionals need to follow Brown’s lead. A substitution of tablets and smartphones for cash registers promises both to improve customer experience and to transform face-to-face customer interactions into a stream of behavioral and contextual data. The benefits of digitizing human channels through consumer devices include:

  • Adding clickstream analysis to human interactions. As sales associates interact with customers, their devices can relay clickstream data back to the company’s data warehouse. For example, Pfizer’s tablet program allows it to track doctors’ content consumption patterns during sales presentations. Using interaction management, firms can test real-time content variations to optimize the sales process.
  • Expanding customer data integration options. By using the phones for mobile POS, employees will pull in customer identity. Firms can also add new methods for data capture – such as Bump-style, near-field communications – into its consumer and enterprise apps. As sales associates transfer a shopping list to the customer’s phone, the device can capture and associate customer identifiers and contextual information with the interaction.
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The Greatest Thing To Come Out Of The Mind Of The Late, Great Steve Jobs: His Perspective

Those of us who work in the field of customer experience are especially hard hit by the passing of Steve Jobs. He symbolized the power of experience — how much a great experience can transform a product, a business, an industry, and even our daily lives.

Do you remember personal computers before the mouse, how you bought and listened to music before iTunes and the iPod, or how many animated films you watched in theaters — with or without the kids — before Pixar?

Steve Jobs even changed the way many of us think. If you own an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve probably found, as I have, that you don’t bother to memorize very much anymore. Why should you when you can dig up facts anytime, anywhere with just a few taps on a touchscreen?

Now please don’t get me wrong: I don’t idealize the man. For one thing, many people contributed to the success of everything I just mentioned. And not all Apple experiences are perfect, and Jobs didn’t succeed at everything he did (remember the NeXT Computer?).

But to go cynical is to miss the point, or more specifically, the point of view — the one that makes Jobs an icon for customer experience professionals. He put it out there when he famously said, “You've got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.”

Frankly, “the other way around” is how most companies still operate. Not just technology companies but firms in every industry. Someone has an idea (maybe great, maybe not), and that turns into a product or service in the marketplace. The customer experience that results is whatever it turns out to be.

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Executive Q&A with Sona Chawla, President e-Commerce, Walgreens

I'm thrilled that Sona Chawla will be a keynote speaker at Forrester's Consumer Forum in just over three weeks! As the President of e-Commerce, Sona oversees operations and leads the team responsible for building the sales, service and customer experience of Walgreens.com and drugstore.com (acquired in June 2011). This includes driving store traffic through the Web, growing online profitability, and the development of new product and service offerings via emerging digital touchpoints such as mobile.

Earlier today, Sona provided me with a sneak peek of her upcoming presentation for our forum "110 Years Of Agility: Continuing Our Evolution To Meet Customer Demands" and all I can say is that it's not to be missed! I don't want to reveal too much and spoil it, but Sona will touch on the dynamic forces at play within healthcare and retail that are driving Walgreens' digital transformation, the framework they are utilizing to enable that transformation, and finally what Walgreens sees for the future. And of course throughout the discussion Sona will have key lessons learned and advice for firms across industries going through similar transformations.

I do however want to share with you Sona's responses to some questions we asked her in advance of the event. Her thoughts demonstrate the growing importance (and let's not forget the financial benefits) of serving customers across touchpoints with innovative, digital products and services.

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Apple’s Product Strategists Maintain The Company’s Premium Positioning In The Mainstreaming Smartphone Battle

My colleague Charlie Golvin and I took the time to step back from the flow of news following Apple’s announcement today. Here below is our take from a consumer product strategy perspective.

Apple’s product strategists face an ongoing paradox: maintaining premium leadership with an annual product renewal while tapping the rapidly mainstreaming global smartphone market

Today, Apple’s product strategists revealed their newest premium smartphone: the iPhone 4S. Just like the 3GS at its introduction, the 4S relies on a leap in processing power and a new interaction paradigm but eschews technology upgrades upon which product strategists building Android-based devices rely today, such as LTE and behemoth screens.

Apple’s new iPhone lineup provides a complete portfolio of products, from the premium 4S in memory configurations up to 64 GB, to the 8 GB iPhone 4 which will allow all of Apple’s carrier customers (including new partners Sprint and KDDI in Japan) to offer a mid-tier iPhone. Apple’s product strategists have opted to add an entry-level option for its GSM-based carrier partners by maintaining the 8 GB iPhone 3GS.

With the iPhone 4S, have Apple’s product strategists designed a product that will maintain Apple’s leadership in the high-end smartphone battle? Forrester believes so — even though Apple chose not to include features that its competitors use to command a premium position, including:

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Avoid Relying Solely On “Canned” Scores For Influencer Targeting -- But Don’t Write Them Off Either

Influencer marketing is on my mind these days. In addition to working on a report about how interactive marketers should collaborate with different resources to execute influencer marketing, I’m also speaking about the topic at Forrester’s Consumer Forum in Chicago later this month.

Talking with marketers, agencies, and service providers, everyone (yes, it’s been everyone) has voiced opinions about “canned,” algorithm-based influence scores available through providers like Klout and PeerIndex. Detractors say that black-box influence scores focus too much on reach and not enough on context or topics, and that influencer identification is too complex to boil down using an opaque calculation. For example, Charlie Sheen may look like a valuable influencer based on his high Klout score, but a marketer of diapers would probably prefer to tap a mommy blogger with a lower top-line score to advocate its brand.

The supporters’ rebuttal: why would you use these scores in a vacuum in the first place?  The score providers themselves dissuade marketers from looking only at an individual’s top-line number with no filters for topic or brand relevancy – and those filters are available. Count me in this camp.

So how should interactive marketers regard off-the-shelf influence scores?  Keep in mind that:

  • These scoring systems are evolving. Companies like Klout and PeerIndex are in their early stages and certainly do have their limitations. But their capabilities to mine scores for topic, category, and brand influence continue to improve.
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The Human Impact Of Improved Customer Experience

I just added up the time that I spent last week having frustrating interactions with companies as a customer: 1 hour and 10 minutes (roughly). I owe most of that to my wireless carrier, but a few other companies also made generous contributions. In each case, I ended the interaction feeling worse than when I’d started — edgier, tenser, and more negative in general. It’s not as if I could turn those emotions off either. Petty though they were, they lasted awhile. How did this affect my subsequent interactions with co-workers, friends, and family? I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure it made them at least somewhat worse. And the impact rippled out from there.

Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one feeling the social effects of bad customer experience. In a recent poll from the UK’s Universal Channel, Brits reported spending an average of 1 hour and 19 minutes per day feeling angry.* The most frequently cited reason was bad customer service. Actually, many of the top 10 reasons relate to customer experience — some, like the last one, are just funny. Take a look:

I don’t advise organizations to invest in improving customer experience because it’s the right thing to do socially. I advise that they do so because it will drive long-term financial success. But what really helps me sleep at night is the knowledge that improving customers’ experiences is actually improving customers’ lives. It’s creating less irritation and more happiness. No rationalizing required — it’s just true (or else you’re not doing it right).

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Online Retail In Germany -- Isn't It Time For A Multichannel Approach?

 

Following on from my European eCommerce overview a couple of months ago, I’m continuing to build a deeper view of how the online retail markets are evolving in the major European markets. 

This month I turn to Germany, the second-largest online retail market in Europe, and one with a number of interesting characteristics. When we compare Germany to other European markets we see that:

·         eBay and Amazon.de are hugely influential. While eBay and Amazon see strong sales in Germany, their influence extends beyond their direct sales as many German web shoppers turn to these sites ahead of search engines to research products. Major retailers such as Conrad are trying to leverage this consumer behavior.

·         Consumer electronics is hotly contested. We looked at Redcoon.de in some detail in our recent Website Functionality Benchmark of European Consumer Electronics Retailers, but with consumer electronics  the number one online category in Germany, other specialist retailers such as ComputerUniverse are looking at new ways of influencing online shoppers with rich product information and ratings and reviews.

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Are You Ready For A World Of Consumer-Managed Data?

It has been a few years since Forrester delved deeply into the issues surrounding consumer privacy, and in that time, an awful lot has changed:

  • Facebook Connect, Google ID, Yahoo Identity, and Sign In With Twitter have emerged as a whole new way of being recognized across a myriad of websites across the Net. As little as a decade ago, most adults online couldn’t have imagined the convenience of single sign-on.
  • At the same time, data capture methods have not only proliferated, they’ve become exceptionally sophisticated. Tactics like Flash-based cookies and deep packet sniffing surreptitiously collect behavioral data about online consumers, while loyalty and membership cards provide more insight into consumers’ purchasing habits at the line item level than ever before.
  • All that extra data is hard to protect without big changes to governance policies and technology stacks, and when data breaches happen, they're public and ugly.
  • Finally, legislators have forged ahead with regulations to protect consumer data. Europe's answer is the Data Protection Directive – a regulatory framework that governs the capture, management and use of consumer data, while in the US, congressional leaders, egged on by consumer advocacy groups, are introducing bills designed to limit data capture and to provide remediation in cases of data and security breach.
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