Making eBusiness Outside In

Today Forrester released its new book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. At the crux of the book is a powerful message for all firms and in particular for eBusiness professionals: We are in the age of the customer. The only way to create sustainable competitive advantage is by being customer obsessed. In the book authors Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine outline how companies can save billions, gain loyalty, and profit from customer experience excellence.

The message and methodologies in the book are essential for eBusiness professionals, who orchestrate the digital experience across touchpoints for customers in many firms. We're seeing eBusiness professionals putting customers at the center of their businesses by shifting from outdated strategies to agile commerce principles. eBusiness professionals are turning agile commerce into a reality by:

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You Are In The Customer Experience Business, Whether You Know It Or Not

Customer experience is fundamental to the success of every business. For most companies, in fact, customer experience is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return — or defect to a competitor.

Customer experience goes to the heart of everything you do: how you conduct your business, how your people behave when they interact with customers and each other, and the value you provide. You literally can’t afford to ignore it, because your customers take it personally each and every time they touch your products, your services, and your support.

In our new book, Outside In, my coauthor, Kerry Bodine, and I explore the real meaning of customer experience; prove the business benefits of delivering a great experience; and describe the six disciplines of customer experience leaders like American Express, JetBlue, Office Depot, and Vanguard. Our goal is to help readers understand why and how customer experience leads to profits — which it does, but only if you treat it as a business discipline.

Why is customer experience so important?

“Customer experience” is literally how your customers perceive their interactions with your company.

Those interactions occur at each step along a customer journey. That journey begins when people realize that you offer a product or service they might want, then compare your offer to other options. If things go your way, they’ll buy from you. Then they’ll use what they bought. If they encounter a problem, they’ll call for support.

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Consumers Embrace Digital On Their Path To Purchase, But Online Still Trumps Mobile

As consumers continue to embrace all things digital to enhance their shopping experience, Forrester is conducting a series of research studies on the consumer’s new path to purchase. My colleague Cory Madigan introduces the first report in this series, focused on the buy phase of the customer life cycle. Here’s her take on these new behaviors:

Digital channels and devices have enabled today’s consumers to be more discerning about how they buy, from where, and at what prices. This disrupted “path to purchase” has complicated the marketer’s job as she tries to reach her shopper with more timely and relevant offers, both online and off. Particularly at the start of the buying process, consumers are doing more research online than ever. Which sites do they find most helpful when making a purchase decision? Forrester's recent North American Technographics® Consumer Deep Dive survey showed that about 1 in 5 found Google and Amazon most helpful, while half as many found traditional stores or websites most helpful. What other key trends should shopper marketers be aware of in 2012?

  • Today’s shopper is fluent in multiple channels and focused on value. Eighty-two percent of consumers researched a product before buying it, and nearly two-thirds of respondents say they pay more attention to prices and value now than they did a year ago. The savings mentality brought on by the Great Recession hasn’t eroded over time; progressive marketers will adapt to this new reality by shifting their focus away from competing on price and toward delivering superior value to shoppers. Emphasize retention and use smarter targeting to get your product in front of the right person at the right time.
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A New Shopping Arena For Consumers

For consumers today, online and mobile channels have become an integral part of the shopping experience — for both researching and purchasing products and services.

In their transition to agile commerce, companies must understand how consumers are interacting and using multiple touchpoints to research, transact, and get service. Our recent report Segmenting Buyers: Introducing Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, And Traditionalists examines how three distinct retail segments of US online consumers — Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, and Traditionalists — leverage various channels for their shopping needs and explains how companies can best engage with each segment.

Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 4,500 US online consumers:

·       Super Buyers are the most connected shoppers and buy from many channels: online, offline, and mobile. Super Buyers like to mix and match their shopping by either researching online and buying offline or vice versa.

·       Connected Traditionalists do most of their shopping online on a computer or in an offline store.

·       Traditionalists are the largest segment; they do most of their shopping in-store — although they are also shopping online on a computer. This group has the lowest uptake of tablets and smartphones.

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A Fortune 100 CEO Talks Mobile ... Whoa!

I was sitting on a United Airlines flight from PDX to SFO last weekend. The usual "Jeff Smisek" video came on welcoming the passengers, providing us with information about how the transition is going and thanking us for choosing United. For the first time in more than a year, I lifted my head from my printed material (no electronics during taxi, takeoff, and landing) to watch the video and listen. He was talking about United's mobile services AND the feature set. Whoa.  

Jeff Smisek has been welcoming passengers on to United flights since just after the acquisition - I think he talked for 6 to 8 months about getting the planes painted with their new logo. Then there was the full merger of the crews and upgrades to the plane interior, etc. I had long ago stopped paying attention . . . like most passengers flying 100x/year, I just want to get where I'm going on time safely, and I bring my own food and entertainment on board.

I just couldn't believe that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company was discussing their mobile services. I have photos from United's jetways that are less than two years old offering push notifications to pagers. Yeah, email and pagers.

Mr. Smisek - I commend you. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have senior level buy-in for their mobile strategy. Seldom, however, does a CEO become such an advocate. I was thrilled to see the video and the associated support. Like all frequent travelers, I rely heavily on my mobile phone for updates and information. Your mobile team is outstanding and has a phenomenal vision for how mobile should serve your passengers and staff. I was happy to see the recognition.

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Marketing Is Alive And Well.

Over the past 2 weeks, we have seen a lot of buzz from a HBR blog post written by Bill Lee.  The title, "Marketing Is Dead" continues to get Bill's blog post quite a bit of mileage and even today, there is still much heated debate over the article's intent.   

The fact is, I agree with many of the points Bill makes in his post...except for the title.  A more accurate title would be"Traditional Marketing Is Dead In The Social And Digital Age", but the marketer (and analyst) in me always appreciates the impact of a bold and controversial statement!  Here's my take on the points Bill makes in his post:

- Traditional marketing tactics are having less relevance in an age where buyers lead the journey and increasingly tap into online resources and social networks for information.  Yes, marketers face the difficult challenge of competing for their buyers' attention in a crowded and noisy online environment.  Traditional tactics may have less influence on buyers in social networks, however they should not be abandoned!  Our research shows that buyers are still influenced by traditional tactics like physical events and even printed content.  Successful companies use an effective mix of complementary traditional and social tactics.

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Culture: Why Your Company Needs Customer-Centric DNA

No matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your customer experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single customer interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your company’s most valuable resource, its employees, to do the right thing for customers. Similarly, sharing customer insights, measuring the results of your work, and introducing customer experience governance programs will only get you so far if your company’s workforce — from your top execs down to entry-level staff members — isn’t ready to embrace new ways of working.

That’s why building a customer-centric culture is critical to customer experience success.

In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer-centric culture through a case study about John Deere Financial, one of the largest providers of financial services to agricultural and construction customers in the US. Like many companies, it had a product and process focus for decades. Then, as part of a recent call to action to become more customer-focused, the company developed a new set of customer promises:

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Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare: How United’s Culture Failed Its Customers

You’re at home when your phone rings. It’s your child’s summer camp calling to tell you that she never arrived. No one knows where she is.

Make your gut churn? Yes, if you’re a parent — or even if you’re not.

If you were following the news last week, you know that Annie and Perry Klebahn did get that phone call. That’s when they found out that their 10-year-old daughter Phoebe hadn’t gotten off a United Airlines flight to Traverse City, Michigan.  

Here are the highlights of what happened.

Phoebe had been traveling alone. Her parents had paid United a $99 fee for the “unaccompanied minor” service and had every reason to believe that their daughter was in good hands. According to the complaint letter that her parents wrote to United, when they dropped Phoebe off at the San Francisco airport, a United employee put an identifying wristband on her and told her to “only go with someone with a United badge on and that she would be accompanied at all times.” But when Phoebe arrived in Chicago to change planes, no one met her. The little girl reportedly asked flight attendants three times to let her use a phone to call her parents, and they told her to wait. She also asked if someone had called camp to tell them she had missed her flight, and they said they’d take care of it (but then didn’t).

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Interactive Healthcare Marketing Needs To Get Innovative

Interactive healthcare marketing innovationA few years ago, a barrister told me a story about an open-and-shut court case involving a burglar caught red-handed by police as he was carrying a television through the window of a house he'd just broken into. After the evidence had been presented, the jury made a request - would the prosecution present the forensic evidence they'd taken from the scene tying the burglar to the crime? "It's the CSI effect," the barrister lamented. You see, the general populace has watched a lot of crime shows on TV and now think they're experts in how and when legal evidence should be gathered and presented. 

When it comes to health and well-being, there's something even bigger than a top-rated TV show influencing consumers - the Google effect. We all turn to the Web at the first sign of a cough and are happily diagnosing or researching our ailments daily. There's even a word for people who diagnose themselves mistakenly from the Web: "cyberchondriacs."

As the classic connected "Gen Xer," I'm constantly Googling symptoms and cures when I'm unwell. So despite my previously limited knowledge of marketing healthcare, I sought to answer these questions: Just how big is the digital opportunity for healthcare brands, and what are brands doing to take advantage?

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Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology

Last week Forrester published Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology. The new research couldn't have arrived at a better time; by any standard, 2012 has been a banner year for tag management as the market momentum I wrote about at the end of last year continues unabated. JavaScript tagging is the instrumentation technology of choice for a wide variety of digital marketing and analytics solutions, but managing tags over the long term is an expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone endeavor. Ultimately, tag management systems (TMS) help provide control, flexibility, and efficiency to ensure the efficacy of digital intelligence. Ever since the enthusiastic reception of Forrester's inaugural report on tag management, it's been abundantly clear that deeper and ongoing research on this topic is essential. I've been bullish on tag management for the past couple of years because it's one of the rare technology solutions that truly addresses a pervasive challenge for practitioners. But I'm hardly alone; tag management is top of mind for several other important constituencies:

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