Yes, really. If you make decisions about your company's interactive marketing programs in China, I want to give you some data you probably don't have access to: Survey data on how your peers and competitors are using interactive tools in the country.
You see, I'm working on a handful of reports covering the interactive marketing landscape in China — based on a long trip to the country in August and September of this year, as well as dozens of interviews with marketers and agencies in the country — and now it's time for my final piece of data collection: a marketer survey. So if you set or influence interactive marketing plans in China, and you've got 5 or 7 minutes to spare, I hope you'll take our short online survey. Just leave your email address at the end of the survey, and we'll get you an aggregated copy of the survey results.
And if you don't know about intearctive marketing in China, just sit tight: We'll be publishing some very interesting highlights from that survey right here on the Forrester blogs shortly.
I'm delighted to be starting with Forrester as a Senior Analyst serving Interactive Marketers. I am based in our London office and will cover Global and EMEA specific topics.
A little bit about me . . .
I studied computer science in Edinburgh, Scotland over 20+ years ago when it was mostly a mathematical topic — heavy on algebra, programming, and other dry subject matter. While some of these topics remained in academia for many years I have seen how they have come to be nurtured under a more commercial light with recommendation systems and rich analytics solutions proliferating in the marketing technology landscape. These tools live alongside bleeding-edge techniques including neuroscience tools to measure pre-cognitive responses to media, messages, and experiences. It’s clear that the mad scientists and M(ad) Men are working side by side. Of course, marketing will always have a strong and essential dollop of artistic flair in the elixir but without doubt it is moving inexorably toward a science helped, in part, from the massive data sets now available through the web and social paradigm.
My experience in the industry has seen me work with many telecommunications companies, media publishers, startups, and hardware manufacturers on a wide gamut of products, marketing strategies and solutions to problems. Most recently I supported the BBC with short- and long-term CRM/sCRM strategies (across all channels) as well as implementing prototypes in the marketing resource management (MRM) and media planning space. In the mobile domain I recently completed some work with Vodafone Global on a system that wove its own mobile content together with third-party content using recommendation engine technologies and HTML5.
Twitter isn’t the largest social network, but its users are very active and tend to be influential. As a result, more and more marketers are looking for ways to leverage the service. The challenge of course is that Twitter is distinctively different than other digital channels, so marketers still struggle to find the “right” way to engage.
In our just-published report about Twitter, we found that:
· Many successful uses of Twitter go beyond the marketing department. Alone, that’s probably not all that surprising. What’s particularly interesting though is that even when Twitter is used in non-marketing departments — like customer service, PR or even sales — interactive marketers are participating in the development of the channel to ensure that disparate accounts are strategically aligned.
· Twitter provides both an overwhelming amount of data and is dominated by a minority of influential users. This can be confusing to marketers because it often means that huge amounts of conversation are created by people who all seem to require a response. Handling that volume and depth of conversation can be particularly daunting. More daunting: Marketers need to be even more interesting and more relevant than the average influential user if they want to cut through the cluttered streams and engage their consumers.
A year ago, Forrester stated that 2011 would — finally — be the year that Near Field Communications (NFC) began to matter. We predicted that dozens of millions of NFC devices would ship and that the market would start moving away from being niche, although it would still be years away from becoming mainstream. Now that 2011 is coming to an end and it is once again the time for predictions, let’s look back at NFC’s year before we publish our report on mobile trends in 2012 at the start of next year.
I recently got confirmation from trusted sources that 35 million to 40 million would be a good estimate for worldwide NFC mobile phone shipments. 2011 was a game-changing year in that handset makers eventually started to embed the technology in their product portfolio.
Despite the hype about Google Wallet, the reality is that few consumers can use it. It will take a few more years before we reach a critical mass of not just NFC device owners but also users of services enabled by NFC technology. Why? Few services are available now; the out-of-the-box experience is still poor; consumer education is missing; and there’s only limited availability of NFC readers in the retail environment.
Product strategists should stop focusing on NFC as just a contactless payment technology but should instead anticipate new uses for the technology that enable consumers to interact with the environment around them.
Most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Why? Because it can work in a closed loop without the need for NFC infrastructure. Device manufacturers will offer NFC-based multimedia content sharing services, such as the recent Blackberry Tag.
With CES 2012 a month away, it’s a good time to look ahead at what’s next for consumer technology product strategy. All eyes have been on tablets: Apple sold 40 million iPads in just 18 months, with 11 million sold in this past quarter alone. With the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet finding their own successful markets, it’s easy to see why tablets attract so much attention and excitement. But computing evolution doesn’t end here—tablets, while still growing rapidly, are not the final form factor. We’ve identified these five form factors as the best candidates for what comes next, which we describe in more detail in a new report for clients:
Wearables. Wearable devices are devices worn on or near the body that sense and relay information. The Lark sleep tracker and BodyMedia wristband both sync with iOS devices and target health and fitness scenarios. WIMM Labs' wristwatch runs on Android software, and targets multiple scenarios including news, social networking, health, and personal finance.
Yesterday, Twitter announced the launch of its highly anticipated brand pages. The move is being lauded as the next logical step for the social network in attempting to bring its offerings in line with competitive services for companies -- like the already-launched Google+ brand pages and the perennial favorite Facebook pages. But how exactly will the changes help brands or change the way they interact?
First, the the pages offer marketers more branding opportunities. A large banner on the top of the page will let you show off your logo or other creative without worry that it'll get lost behind the Twitter stream like your custom background images may on your current pages.
Second, you'll be able to make a tweet sticky by pinning it to the top of your stream -- with media like photos or videos -- for as long as you choose.
These features sound -- and are -- good news to marketers who've wanted better tools to create a destination for their audiences on Twitter. But remember, the majority of interaction with your followers on Twitter happens in the stream, not on your brand page. So while these new tools will let you position your Twitter presence better to capture new followers, you still have to have a clear strategy for engaging your followers once you've got them . . .
I am both disappointed and excited to announce that I am leaving Forrester. As of next week I'll be returning to the agency world to put my research concepts into practice. It has been a real honor being a Forrester analyst. I can’t tell begin to tell you how intelligent, inspiring, and energetic the people are at this organization. It’s not just the Forrester people either. The opportunity to connect with so many smart people from marketing organizations, agencies, and technology companies has been tremendous as well. I will truly miss this role.
I know I’m leaving you in good hands as the interactive marketing team here is doing some great research. I encourage you to follow the social and mobile marketing work that Melissa Parrish is doing. Her latest research on location based social networking is a great read. I know I’ll be reading the research Joanna O’Connell and Michael Greene are doing on the future of digital media. I’ll miss my conversations with our newer analysts like Elizabeth Shaw and Ari Osur regarding emerging technologies and peer influence. I’ll also continue to stay connected to veterans such as Shar Vanboskirk and Nate Elliott as they write about the changing marketing organization, social media, and best practices in global interactive marketing. Finally I’ll just miss the great camaraderie and the constant education I got from working with people like Josh Bernoff, Suresh Vittal, Dave Frankland, Zach Hofer-Shall, Chris Stutzman, and the many, many others I could list here.
When I look back at our predictions for 2011, we focused on the changes needed in the IM organization. Specifically the need to tear down walls between channels. We urged marketers to be customer-obsessed rather than channel-obsessed because we saw the dawn of a new consumer, one who uses tablets while they watch TV, uses social networks more often on their phone than on their computer, and who doesn't think of their "inbox" as just their Gmail account, but as any message they happen to get on any screen they happen to be looking at. Well, I certainly hope you listened to our prediction for 2011, because if you haven't started coordinating your interactive marketing efforts, you won't be ready for 2012, when the truly multiscreen consumer emerges.
Today, our predictions for 2012 come out. We foresee a year where the consumer is "always on" and demands a custom experience from the companies they do business with. Think about it, which companies do you allow in your pocket? Only the few who you really need, or like, or are entertained by. In 2012 we predict that marketers must:
Gamificationcontinues to be a hot topic for interactive marketers, and I expect this trend to continue well into the new year. For one, it's not industry-specific and it has various applications. Vendors likeBunchball,Badgeville, andBigDoorcan enable it through their SaaS platforms. CrowdTwistfocuses on developing social loyalty and rewards programs but leverages game mechanics. Lithiumgamifies online communities. The space is growing — fast. One of the most interesting things has been the interest I have seen from highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, and pharmaceutical. They see gamification as their ticket to drive different behaviors and actions like losing weight or decreasing your credit card debt.
Over the next month, I'll be looking for examples in these industries for an upcoming report and for additional research on the space in early next year. How do you think highly regulated industries can benefit from applying game mechanics on their web and mobile properties to drive action? What examples have you seen that you would like to share?
On one hand, the acquisition means that the herd of strictly LBSNs is continuing to thin, which means the remaining apps have less competition, so marketers who are looking to play on those platforms should have fewer options with larger audiences to choose from. On the other hand, the move appears to be further integrating location into a user’s total Facebook experience — at once broadening the appeal of location-based social activity by baking location into everything a user does on Facebook and thereby potentially subverting the need for strictly LBSNs by integrating the user value into a larger social experience.
And so the big question: should marketers get involved with LBSNs and other geolocation applications?
The bottom line is that geosocial apps are still niche, but they’re growing in usage. Since we published our previous report in July 2010, foursquare has grown from 2 million users to 15 million. Twitter — and now even more aggressively, Facebook — has continued to fuse their social offerings with location information; even technology companies like Apple are chiming in with the launch of the “Find My Friends” app. However, even though the user-base numbers have grown quickly, we still find that few consumers are checking in: 6% have ever, with only 2% doing so at least weekly.