Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers

With consumers increasingly looking for discounts online and flocking to horizontal coupon sites (e.g. ShopatHome and RetailMeNot), vertical coupon sites (e.g. TechBargains), and cashback sites (e.g. Ebates), eBusiness professionals face a new “coupon-driven” shopping normal. As a result, eBusiness professionals are increasingly considering, and reconsidering, the affiliate deal space as a channel for both acquiring and retaining online shoppers.

As stated in my new report, “Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers,” while some historical questions persist around measuring incrementality, sales crediting, and brand association, affiliate deal sites today now help eBusiness professionals address a growing number of “deal-insistent” customers by offering:     

  • Advanced targeting capabilities. Today’s affiliate deal sites have modernized to accommodate eBusiness professionals’ higher targeting, tracking, and geographic coverage standards. They now offer sort and search functionality, rich editorial content, exclusive deals, and reach into international markets.  
  • New means to optimize offers and commission payments.  Advanced technology now enables eBusiness professionals to more accurately align commissions with affiliate deal site performance.  Affiliate deal sites operating within a broader affiliate network can tie commissions to the quality of the sale and the quantity of margin available.  
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Product Strategists Should See NFC As Much More Than Contactless Payments

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.

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Lead-To-Revenue Management Automation Made In Europe

Well, it finally got published by Forrester! Peter O'Neill here and my long-promised overview of lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) vendors "Made in Europe" got out last week. We were delayed because I had to wait for my US colleague to publish on some of our research ideas on L2RM automation in her introductory report, to which I refer in my report - and she had to negotiate her text around the wishful thinking of around 45 different vendors, all of whom have their own view of a L2RM architecture. That meant that my research done in the summer of this year may look a little out of date. But I fully expect to be able to update this report for Q2 2012 in response to many other European software vendors briefing me on their experience with tech marketing customers.

Anyway, without any further ado, here is the list of European vendors I did feature. The report goes into more detail, of course, on each vendor. I have also included a list of those North American L2RM automaton vendors who have offices in Europe.   

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Forrester's CPS Practice Welcomes Our Newest Analyst - Denée Carrington!

Over the summer, I asked you all whether we are finally headed toward a cashless society. Since then the battle for the digital wallet has certainly heated up. Well today, I am thrilled to announce the newest addition to Forrester's Consumer Product Strategy practice. Her name is Denée Carrington, and she will be joining us as a Senior Analyst, covering consumer payments, starting January 3, 2012. 

To provide more specifics, here's a sneak peek at some of the coverage areas where Denée will be able to help Forrester clients with consumer payment strategy in the new year:

  • Defining the future of consumer payments
  • Managing a portfolio of payment products (e.g. credit, debit, prepaid, contactless, mobile, person-to-person (P2P), etc.)
  • The business models and profitability of these payment systems
  • Understanding the dynamics of customer (consumer and merchant) payment behavior
  • Understanding the payments needs of different markets
  • Sizing the different payments market opportunities
  • Driving customer (consumer and merchant) adoption of payments systems
  • Building and developing new payment systems
  • Optimizing existing payment products to improve security and increase convenience
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Why Bank Transfer Day Only Netted 214,000 Accounts?

An article in today’s New York Times entitled “The Exaggerated Impact of Bank Transfer Day” states that 214,000 customer opened accounts with credit unions as a result of the much ballyhooed Bank Transfer Day event. With as much media blitz around the event as there was as well as the rash of articles around Bank of America’s debit card fee situation, you’d think millions would have moved their accounts. We’ll that did not happen and here is why:

  • Consumers choose banks based on location as well as fees. Fees are just one factor in a consumer’s decision to “bank” with a given provider. As much or more a factor is bank access – more specifically convenience of branches and ATMs. In general, credit unions have fewer branches and ATMs than banks and do a poor job marketing benefits like fee-free ATMs and co-op branches.
  • Banks (and especially big banks) have the products and services consumers want. Credit unions are getting better but in general their account services are inferior to banks. Case in point digital services. Banks like Chase go way beyond the basics of digital services to include services robust transfer capabilities, advanced mobile offerings, and multi-touch point self service. Credit Unions provide the basics but seldom advanced digital services consumers are interested in these days.
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Insurance eBusiness Initiatives And IT Priorities And Spending Closely Aligned For 2012

The insurance industry is in the midst of some big changes. Those changes introduce very new pressures, priorities, and uncertainties into an industry whose business depends on stability. In these dynamic times, carriers hang their hat on what they do for their customers, even if how it gets done and who does it might be changing. Our report, "Tech Opportunities In The North American Insurance Industry",  outlines the top business priorities and supporting technology investment plans of North American insurers.  In this year's study (our fourth) it turns out that:

Industry’s business outlook turns strongly positive with select IT spending following along. Even with a record number of disasters that have translated into record economic losses, more US and Canadian insurers have positive outlooks when compared with last year. What’s behind these buoyant outlooks? By all indications, it looks like insurers will be competing on something other than price, as the market condition changes to “firm” and even “hard” for some lines. This year’s top initiative remains growing the business, with ebusiness teams playing a starring role.

Technology’s value shifts to sales, service, and support, not simply cost-savings. Five years ago, the IT’s fundamental value proposition was as a means to take cost out of the insurance equation. While still important, virtually all the insurers we surveyed told us that technology was critical to how they serviced and supported their customers, and 80% told us that technology was essential in the insurance distribution and sales model.

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North American Banks Continue To Improve Their Digital Services: Forrester’s 2011 Bank Secure Website Rankings

Forrester’s two recent reports — 2011 US Bank Secure Website Rankings and 2011 Canadian Bank Secure Website Rankings — highlight the incremental improvements banking providers have made over the past year. Overall, scores among US and Canadian banks rose by an average of five points. The biggest gains can be seen in the improved usability of the websites, with big advances in users’ ability to navigate banks’ secure websites. Canada’s six largest banks gained more ground than their counterparts south of the border, with firms such as Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank rolling out completely overhauled secure sites. In terms of individual banks, we found that:

·         Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase take the top three spots overall. Wells Fargo’s secure website is the only one we evaluated that scored above a 90 (out of 100) in the category of transactional content and functionality. In addition, it ranked first or second across all four categories of usability we evaluated. Bank of America earned an overall score of 81 by offering best-in-class alerts and self-service functionality. Chase, meanwhile, had a strong showing with convenient secure website functionality such as multiple bill payment options and solid mobile banking features.

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2012 Market Insights Professionals – Better … Stronger … Faster?

As the world starts discussing the intricacies of the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus’ predictions and the potential appearance of “Planet X” in 2012, we thought we would get the conversation focused on something much more important … the future of Market Insights. No, there’s no doomsday planned for our profession but, yes, there may be some cataclysmic events for some market insights professionals as they get hit by increasing demands from executives and stakeholders who are struggling to keep up with competitive disruption and fast-changing customer preferences.

Forrester will shortly publish the “Predictions 2012: What Will Happen In Market Research” report. In it, we’ll detail major tectonic shifts which we’ve been monitoring in the industry and why we are reaching a tipping point where constancy is now riskier than change. Some factors contributing to this include:

  • Companies need to change.Disruptors are changing the rules of the game with their “shoot-aim-ready!” business model and the internet has greatly enhanced customer power, influence and choice.  To survive in this environment, companies need to embrace continuous market and performance monitoring and business improvement.
  • Market insights needs to change. Changes at the company level will force market insights departments to change their deliverables and business processes. Key changes include providing more agile insights, deeper and more strategic insights and more proactive competitive intelligence. Those which don’t face being replaced by Shadow MI.
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Strategic Content Management Will Make Marketing More Predictable

 

My first job, writes Peter O'Neill, after university was as a business analyst at Ford Motor Company, assisting an executive who sat on the monthly Project Appropriation Committee (PAC) where investments were approved. I learned to calculate the time-averaged rate of return and net present value for a project, proving it was better to invest in it than keeping the money in the bank. My executive ran an organization called General Services, which in those days (1978) included generating our own electricity within the factory complex in Dagenham, England. Now they take their power from the national grid and the generating plant is no more.

Now this is not a discussion of cloud computing and where enterprise IT will end up. What I most remember from those monthly PAC briefing books at Ford was the marketing project submissions. They also had documented TARR and NPV numbers. They would predict that by investing a sum of money in a promotional campaign (e.g., a special car model, dealer incentive, discounts), their market share would go up by, say, 0.7 percentage points – Ford was the UK market share leader in those days at around 30%, selling mostly company cars to businesses. I often checked out whether or not the predicted market share change actually happened and it mostly did –  marketing was able to quantify its contribution very well indeed. 

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Beyond Tablets: The Next Five Computing Form Factors

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.
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