Book Business Outlook For 2012: Hard Work Ahead

This week hundreds of us in and around the book industry will converge on Digital Book World 2012 (#DBW12). It's a conference that has risen in significance because this industry has rapidly come to understand that it is uniquely susceptible to digitization -- and poised to benefit from it -- in a way that other media are not.

This awareness has translated into relative optimism among publishers. As I'll share with the DBW12 audience on Tuesday morning, we recently conducted a survey with Digital Book World of publishing executives whose companies together earn 74% of all US trade publishing revenues. As we closed out 2011, 82% of publishing executives we surveyed were optimistic about the digital transition. That's a large number, even if it's smaller than the 89% it was a year ago. But when we take into account all the measures of optimism we threw at them -- about the industry in general, about the fortunes of readers, and the importance of their own roles -- most of them decreased somewhat and some decreased significantly. 

Most tellingly, only 28% of these executives thought their own company would be stronger in the future because of digital compared to 51% who agreed with this sentiment the prior year. This suggests that publishers have started to do the hard work of making the digital transition and they're finding that it is, indeed, hard work. It's worth putting ourselves in the shoes of these publishing industry product strategists for a moment to consider just why they aren't positive that their companies are going to come out better off. I see three reasons:

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Bad Reasons For NOT Having A Chief Customer Officer

I recently updated our research on enterprisewide customer experience leaders, who we refer to as “chief customer officers” or CCOs. While they often don’t have that exact title, we identified around 600 individuals who carry a mandate to improve the end-to-end customer experience at their company. We did some deeper research on close to 200 of them in order to understand the general profile of these people as well as how their positions are structured within their companies.

Forrester has witnessed a marked increase in the position over the past six years. And for good reason: Competitive forces are shifting dramatically in what we call the “age of the customer” (from Forrester report "Why Customer Experience? Why Now?"). Firms struggle to compete on product innovation alone, as global outsourcing and cloud-based computing lower barriers to entry and create scores of substitutes. Customer power has grown, as 73% of firms trust recommendations from friends and family, while only 19% trust direct mail (from Forrester report "Consumer "Ad-itudes" Stay Strong"). Firms have turned to customer experience as a way to differentiate in this commoditized world, which has led to the surge in CCOs. In my new report, I profiled key characteristics of CCOs as well as models for the kinds of organizations they oversee.

At the same time, as high-profile firms like Fidelity, The Washington Post, and General Motors have put in place senior customer experience leaders over the past year or so, I’ve been struck by the wide assortment of reasons that firms use to rationalize NOT putting a chief customer officer in place.

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The Data Digest: Consumers' Attitude Towards Online Privacy And Security

Over the weekend, one of the most reputable online retailers in the US, Zappos, broke the news that its database was hacked and that the information for about 24 million user accounts was breached.

How do stories like this affect consumers’ attitude toward online privacy? In our August 2011 Community Speaks Qualitative Insights report, “Consumer And Online Privacy: How Much Information Is Too Much?” (available for Community Speaks subscribers only), we found that online privacy is one of the most concerning topics in online users’ minds. Two-thirds of US online consumers report being very concerned about the recording and collection of their personal details by websites. 

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How To Prioritize Your eCommerce Technology Investments

2011 is in the books, and I certainly hope your business in 2011 reflected the macro trends favoring online and mobile commerce. But as the calendar rolls over and we (quickly) fire back up after the holidays it is time to look at 2012’s plans and ensure we are laying the foundations for a successful year and beyond. But that begs the question of how best to manage the prioritization of technology investments in an environment of increased budget, and increased visibility. Some of you may be done with this, but many of you are still in the midst of making your decisions. As you complete your prioritization of projects for 2012, some things to keep in mind:

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SOPA/PIPA - what really stunts the growth of the Digital Economy?

The recent furore about SOPA and PIPA has set me thinking afresh about my position on copyright ownership legislation. I myself suffer, albeit in a very small way, from the kind of pirates being targeted by the bills and regularly find my Indian classical arrangement of Silent Night being illegally sold by pirate sites in China and elsewhere.  It’s frustrating but my views on the topic are not simply to create the biggest hammer possible to crush the activity.

What really stunts growth and adoption of the Digital Economy?

There is something wider at work here beyond simply piracy. The short term view, adopted by SOPA, is to instigate moderately Draconian measures impacting the architecture of the internet. My colleague Ari Osur has written an excellent post that clearly outlines how this might affect the world of the Marketer should SOPA/PIPA transpire in its current form. 

A longer term view to the solution is that this piracy is mostly happening in emerging digital economies and that it is informally permissible until they mature.  Joe Karaganis published a seminal report on Media Piracy in 2011 which took a fresh look at the topic with many case studies taken from emerging economies. One quote which sticks out is :

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Apple Schools Textbook Publishers In Education Innovation

 At Apple’s event today in New York, Apple unveiled iBooks2, a new version of its iBooks software that is tailored to interactive textbooks, and iBooks Author, an app that makes it free and simple to create interactive textbooks for the iPad.

There are already thousands of digital textbooks available on the iPad, as well as on other devices like PCs and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet. But as my colleague Annie Corbett and I have written, e-textbooks are a transitional product, accounting for only 2.8% of the $8 billion US higher education textbook market in 2010, according to the National Association of College Stores. The vast majority of digital textbooks are not very innovative; they’re essentially print replicas with digital extensions like highlighting, search, and annotation. The iPad — which now outsells Macs in schools, according to Apple — is capable of much more than what has previously been produced, and Apple hasn’t been satisfied with the status quo. Today, Apple demonstrated iBooks2, a new textbook experience for the iPad; these new textbooks can be created using iBooks Author. iBooks2 will solve two product strategy problems for publishers:

  • Production cost. Companies like Inkling are doing quite well helping publishers take their education apps to the next level. The problem is that publishers’ content creation and production processes are still optimized for print, not digital, so working with Inkling is expensive (in terms of publishers’ labor, not necessarily Inkling’s fees). So most publishers opt to create a small number of new apps and settle for digital replicas or “enhanced eBooks” of everything else.
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Thinking of launching a daily deal? Just hold that thought and read this first...

In November 2011 Sucharita Mulpuru published a very well read Forrester research document entitled “The Myths and Truths About Daily Deals”. In this document she led with the line…

“While significant media and investor interest in daily deals has fueled the hype around this business model, data from consumers indicates that daily deals are significantly challenged models.”

The daily deals concept is receiving just as much press coverage in Europe as it is in the US, so with that in mind we have taken a similar look at the state of the market of deals, flash sales and coupons and found that while there is a great deal in common, there are some notable differences.

Much of the differences stem from a combination of the local players and the geographical complexity of operating across Europe.  Many of the big players like Grouponand Living Socialare present in Europe, with significant market presence in many countries, though a range of other national companies like DailyDeal.deand SecretSales.comoperate in only one country. So while at a national level the situation is reasonably easy to understand, eBusiness executives operating in a pan-European company have a maze of different options to navigate through.

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Ham-Handed SOPA Loses Momentum, But This Issue Isn’t Dead

So it appears that the progress of SOPA and PIPA is grinding to a halt, largely due to the massive online backlash inflamed by the influential new generation of digitally focused companies like Google, Amazon.com, and Facebook.  For interactive marketers, this is a good thing.  But protecting content creators from online piracy is fundamentally important and the movement is funded by deep pockets.  If SOPA and PIPA are dead in their current incarnations, they’re certain to resurface in another form.  The new question for interactive marketers and the online community is whether that new form will be more realistic, fair, and effective in terms of enforcement and compliance.

As a refresher, the twin online anti-piracy bills in the U.S. legislature sought to give copyright holders and U.S. attorneys general the power to stop foreign-based websites from linking to or displaying copyrighted content like movies and music without permission.  But the bills are extremely far-reaching and complicated and could potentially up-end the operations of any website that allows users to post content or has links to other sites – which is basically every site out there.

Why are SOPA and PIPA bad news for marketers?  They would potentially:

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The Co-Operative Bank Comes First In Forrester's 2011 European Bank Customer Advocacy Rankings

For the second year in succession, the UK's Co-operative Bank has come top in our European Bank Customer Advocacy Rankings, just ahead of Poland's ING Bank Śląski, with Germany's Sparda-Banken in third place.

Customer advocacy is the perception among customers that a firm does what’s right for them, not just what’s best for its own bottom line. Customer advocacy matters because in every country we survey in our Consumer Technographics® research, we’ve found that customers who view their main bank as a customer advocate have more accounts at their main bank, are more likely to consider their bank for their next financial purchase, and are more likely to recommend it to others.

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How Data Sensitive Are Your Customers?

Most marketers and customer intelligence (CI) pros tend to lump together most types of customer data. Sure, things like passwords and social security numbers are considered more "sensitive," but for the most part, the systems that protect all the data -- and the privacy policies that communicate their capture and governance -- are largely the same.

This model used to work just fine. But in an era where consumers are becoming increasingly aware of data capture, data breaches, and the value of personal data, it's not enough to treat all data (nor all customers) the same. In researching our latest report, "Personal Identity Management Success Starts With Customer Understanding," we found that:

  • Individuals see different types of data differently -- they're most worried about what we consider individual identity data, and far less concerned about the capture and use of their behavioral data
  • Most consumers are willing to share their data in exchange for value. But, what they consider "valuable" is very age-dependent -- in other words, the same consumer isn't equally motivated by discounts and cash rewards. 
  • A surprising number of consumers "just say no" if a privacy policy doesn't pass their sniff test, and the numbers seem to be rising. 
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