Cannes Provides Backdrop For Latest WPP Digital Agency Acquisition

Cannes this year is hosting more and more evidence of the disappearance of lines between “digital” and “advertising”: A mobile category was launched; the new Branded Content and Entertainment category includes subcategories such as “best use or integration of user generated content”; Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was named Media Person of the Year and . . .

. . . WPP used the international advertising festival to announce it is acquiring digital agency AKQA and incorporating it as a separate network within WPP.

AKQA is a great pickup for WPP. It's not only one of the biggest indies left but one of the best at blending creative and technology skills in one organization — a mix that doesn’t always live together easily.

It also fills a hole for WPP. AKQA aspires to a category of agencies I call “brand transformers” that are about more than communications and look to leverage digital capabilities to help clients enter new adjacent product and service areas.

Very interesting that it will be a standalone brand and not folded into one of WPP’s existing networks. Digital agencies VML and Blast Radius bring similar capabilities but are locked in the Y&R network; WPP gains flexibility by having AKQA “at large” in its holdings. In addition, AKQA is a little too big to fold into another network easily, but will need to build heft quickly if it wants to remain separate. Otherwise, in a couple of years, WPP will merge it with other assets.

I think it’s likely Interpublic and Omnicom will react. WPP clearly sees digital as essential to its future. This acquisition definitely puts some distance between WPP and Omnicom, which had been pretty close, and Interpublic, which has a couple of strong assets but doesn’t have the strategic focus that WPP and Publicis do.

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Introducing "The State Of North American Digital Banking" Available To Subscribers On Forrester.com

Core to Forrester's value proposition are the insights we derive from in-depth surveys to understand consumer preferences, attitudes, activities and desires. On the flip side, is understanding how businesses are responding to consumer needs and opportunities. Over the last few years, Forrester has been focusing on building up this business side intelligence, and I am happy to report we have further extended that in the retail banking industry.

Forrester in partnership with the Consumer Bankers Association did an in depth survey of digital banking executives in North America to understand the state of the digital channel. Our survey which included responses from 19 digital banking executives contains data from 13 of the top 50 retail banks in the US. The survey covered many aspects of the business including organizational structure, hiring, channel priorities, and business metrics across online servicing, mobile servicing, payments, social, and sales. The output of this survey work is two reports outlining "The State Of North American Digital Banking." The first of which is availabe on Forrester.com. 

Here are some of the highlights of the report:

  • Digital channels are growing. "The State of North American Digital Banking 2012"s survey shows that investment in the digital channels continues to grow with budgets being split 70/30 online to mobile and budgets that range from from $250K to over $25M.
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Healthcare Customer Experience Insight At Forrester's Customer Experience Forum — Wednesday, June 27th — New York, NY

I'm excited that I'll be spending time with Forrester clients next week at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2012 East. On the second day of the forum (Wednesday, June 27th), there are two industry presentations of particular interest to healthcare industry executives:

 

1. 11.30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.: Patient Empowered Healthcare

Matt Eaves

Matt Eaves (director, engagement, Cancer Treatment Centers of America) will talk about the patient-centric interactive experience that his organization created in collaboration with interactive design agency, EffectiveUI.

 2. 2.00 p.m. - 2.45 p.m.: Bucking The Trend In An Industry That Delivers Poor Customer Experience

Torben Nielsen

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Q&A With Kevin Peters, President, North America, Office Depot

Yesterday I wrote a post inspired by insight from Kevin Peters of Office Depot. Today we’re going to hear from the man himself!

My co-author (Kerry Bodine) and I were so impressed by what Kevin’s been doing to reinvent customer experience at his company that we open our upcoming book with a case study about him. We’re also fortunate to have him to speak at our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East in New York just a week from today (June 26th).

Whether you’re going to get a chance to hear Kevin speak next week or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the insight he provides in his answers to some questions we sent him. My favorite nugget: Depot Time!

So without further ado . . . heeeeeere’s Kevin!

1.  How would you describe the experience that you want Office Depot customers to have?

We care about providing solutions, not just selling products. At the end of the day, we need our customers more than they need us. That philosophy must guide everything that we do. Our customers must feel that their business is valuable to us. To that end:

  • They are greeted at the front door and feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Their success is our success.
  • Their problems are our challenges to be solved.
  • They are recognized and remembered when they return.
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SMS Usage Remains Strong In The US: 6 Billion SMS Messages Are Sent Each Day

In two recently published forecasts — the Forrester Research Mobile Media Application Spending Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (EU-7) and the Forrester Research Mobile Media Application Spending Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US) — we looked at mobile and tablet content usage for games, music, video, and messaging across the US and seven countries in Western Europe. As content availability becomes more synonymous with handset choice, the forecast helps us understand the proportion of mobile commerce that we can attribute to those who use and pay for digital content.

Even with the increased use of instant messaging, SMS remains the workhorse of mobile — with a 14% increase in the number of SMS messages sent in 2011 compared with 2010. More than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the US in 2011, which equates to more than 6 billion SMS messages sent per day. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 35 messages per day. Although by 2017 SMS will dominate mobile content spend less than it does today, it will still remain significant.

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Microsoft’s Surface Tablets: Why Windows Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Microsoft’s announcement that it is launching its own first-party hardware for a family of Windows tablets is welcome news: If you want a job done right, do it yourself. While Asus, Lenovo, Nokia, Samsung, and Toshiba are expected to launch their own Windows RT products this year, other major OEMs are notably absent from the list, either because they’re focused on x86 devices first or because they were locked out of the launch like HTC. Microsoft's Surface tablets will run on both chipsets.

Microsoft has so many assets to bring to its own hardware: Smartglass, a “Kinect camera,” Skype, Barnes & Noble Nook content, Microsoft Office (although that won’t be exclusive to Windows), just to name a few. While skeptics rightly criticize past Microsoft hardware failures like the Zune player, Xbox is a more recent example of resounding success. With the next generation of the Xbox “720” due out soon, Microsoft will have ample opportunity to bundle and promote the two products together and sell its tablets through the same consumer retail channels — although to start at least, the Surfaces will only be available at Microsoft Stores and online, which certainly limits adoption potential.

This product line marks a crucial pivot in Microsoft’s product strategy. It blends the Xbox first-party hardware model with the Windows ecosystem model. It puts the focus on the consumer rather than the enterprise. And it lets Microsoft compete with vertically integrated Apple on more even ground.

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You Need Your Customer More Than Your Customers Need You

Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.

If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.

Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I  moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.

In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.

Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?

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Digital Publishers: Facebook's Mobile Problem Is Your Problem, Too

Many in the industry have watched with interest (and perhaps a bit of schadenfreude) as Facebook shares have plunged to under $27. Obviously, multiple factors have contributed to some of the luster coming off this once glistening object, but a significant factor has to be concerns over Facebook’s ability to monetize its growing mobile user base through advertising. But here’s the thing, digital publishers: mobile monetization isn’t just Facebook’s problem; it’s your problem too.

If anything, the publicity around Facebook’s mobile challenges brings to light what has become a very open secret among digital publishers – mobile isn’t a great advertising business. And it won’t be any time soon, either.

Rapidly changing consumer behavior has turned mobile into a massive media platform, with over 1/3 of US online adults owning 3 or more connected devices (typically a PC, smartphone,  and tablet), going online multiple times a day, and from multiple locations – a segment Forrester calls the Always Addressable Customer. This is a tremendous opportunity from a content perspective – publishers can now engage audiences essentially whenever and wherever they are by building mobile apps galore and optimizing their websites for easy, on-the-go mobile and tablet consumption. But monetizing those content assets is another story altogether.

Sure, US mobile display ad spending will eclipse a billion dollars this year, and network players like Millennial and Google will continue to reap the rewards. Meanwhile, traditional content creators will struggle to find and deliver scale – a complaint we often hear from media buyers eager to engage mobile audiences. If this sounds like a repeat of the history of digital advertising, it’s because fragmentation and lack of scale is true for almost every media innovation.

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Hold Your Community Together With Social Glue

Talking to someone you have nothing in common with isn’t fun, and this is even more true when you are online. This is something you need to take to heart when you’re thinking of launching a community. Apart from coming up with a content plan, you need to take the time to clarify your objectives and participant pool.

The objectives of the community (i.e., what you want to learn from your community) and your participants (e.g., the people who will help you accomplish your objectives) are what we market research online community (MROC) experts call the “social glue” — they bond your community together to ensure it has a proper foundation to build upon.

The stronger the social glue, the better engagement you will have. It’s easy to start adding to your objectives and demographic requirements for participants, but it’s better to hold back. Sticking to one point of focus will get you the most in-depth and detailed results. A recent blog post by iModerate highlights this point for research objectives: “We tell many of our clients from the outset that they can either snorkel (cover more range, but stay shallow) or scuba dive (cover less, but go much deeper). If they want the richness that comes from thorough exploration, they need to follow our lead and we as researchers need to stay focused and diligent.” This also applies to the participants you select. Essentially, the broader the pool you have, the less in-depth your results will be because you have such a diverse group that you only can cover a wide variety of objectives superficially.

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Countdown: T Minus Two Weeks Until The VoC Award Winners Announcement!

Where will you be at 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26th? I know where I’ll be: announcing the winners of Forrester’s annual Voice Of The Customer Awards at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in NYC!

We’ve read through the incredible submissions, graded them, picked our finalists, and picked our winners. And I’ve been busy for the past few weeks organizing everything for the big announcement on June 26th and the Forum track session panel featuring the three winners that’s happening on Wednesday, June 27th, at 1:20 p.m.

Yes, you heard right. This year I’m not just announcing the winners on Day 1; I’m also moderating a track session where you can hear more about the winning programs. First, the companies’ representatives are going to describe the types of improvements they’ve made and the business results associated with those improvements, and then I’m going to open up the floor to Q&A. This is your chance to ask the burning questions about what makes these programs so successful.

So, sign up for the event, and stay tuned on my blog for the big announcement in two weeks!