Creators sit at the top of Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder: They are the consumers who write blogs and articles, upload self-created video and music, post photos, and maintain their own web pages. More than any other group, Creators are shaping the face of consumer content online. We recently published a report called “Exploring The Social Technographics® Ladder: Creators.” It shows that Creators are great advocates for the brands they like, and that they have, on average, many more friends and followers to share their opinions with than any other group.
However, what was really intriguing is how much they value feedback from companies and brands. Even more importantly, more Creators expect companies to respond to positive posts about products/services than to negative ones.
This is contrary to popular belief. In fact, there’s plenty of advice out there on what you should do in a crisis or how to respond to someone who’s posted a complaint. There’s not much advice on how to handle positive feedback, but in fact, it’s one of the best ways to trigger (and motivate) your brand advocates.
ExactTarget today announced plans to acquire two companies: Pardot and iGoDigital. The acquisitions signal that ExactTarget, only recently public, intends to use its cash reserves to grow aggressively against the competition in revenue, market segments, and features. So what does it mean?
Are the two acquisitions related?
No, the dual acquisitions are a quirk of timing, allowing ExactTarget to drive the marketing technology conversation in advance of Connections, its user conference in Indianapolis next week. I’ll separate my comments to better address each.
Still, I’ll risk a theme for these two acquisitions: Marketing automation without predictive analytics is blind, but analytics without automation is empty.
Why did ExactTarget make the acquisitions now?
The acquisition is unlikely to make a big impact in the short term. Recommendations are a small part of the marketing software mix for retailers. ExactTarget can cross-sell online recommendations into its significant B2C base, but in the end, ExactTarget is acquiring the firm for a longer-term move.
After moving to a new apartment in September, I needed to get a new TV. My first instinct was to gather information from a few sources. I browsed online retailers to get an idea of prices, and I looked at manufacturers’ marketing content to understand the latest technologies like 3D TV. After all of that, I turned to consumer reviews and discussions to get a feeling for whether I would actually find those features valuable. (For example, some customer reviews helped me confirm that I didn’t want 3D TV.)
Where did I find those reviews? Everywhere — there are star ratings and comments on product pages at retail sites (like John Lewis and Amazon.com), technology media sites (like CNET) and manufacturer websites. Interestingly — I got the feeling that the manufacturers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the transparency that social media brings. They’d like to put a spin on the message, even if they can’t entirely control it — For example, Panasonic’s UK site has a page that promotes “5 Star Reviews Of The Month” (see the screenshot below). I can't think of a situation when I'd want a firm to guide me only to the most positive reviews of its products. Can you?
I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on the future of banking at the Economic Forum in Poland. The head of retail for a major retail bank predicted that within five years, his bank would not have any branches left. This was a remarkable statement, considering that in his country, 29% of banking customers still visit a branch once a month; in Warsaw, there’s a bank branch on every street corner. Across Europe, however, these numbers vary: Forrester’s recent research shows that only 7% of banking customers in the Netherlands visit a bank branch at least once a month, down from 9% in 2011, while in Spain, 49% of banking customers still visit a branch once a month.
Branches Will Not Disappear, But They Will Change.
What is going on here? Will bank branches disappear or will they transform themselves from transaction processing hubs to sales and advice centers? We think the latter because:
Branches are expensive.The elevated cost structure of branches — including their increasing staff expenses (i.e., hiring, training, and retaining them) and the security costs related to cash dispensing — is putting pressure on the cost/income ratio of many retail banks. This is the main reason why SNS Bank moved the cash-dispensing function out of its branches and replaced them with ATMs. But ther are more examples as stated by my colleague Benjamin Ensor in his blog about digital banking innovation in Turkey.
We’ve seen many dazzling new consumer technology products launch in 2012, with many more expected by year end. Amid the bang of the Microsoft Surface, iPhone 5, and Google Nexus, it would be easy to miss the quieter product launch today of the larklife, the second product released by Lark Technologies, a 21-person startup located in a Mountain View shopping center. As I’ve been researching my soon-to-launch report on the bigger story of wearables, Lark caught my eye, and I was completely blown away by the demo I saw of their new product last week.
Since the beginning of the year (with a peak in July, thanks to this Bloomberg article), there have been rumors that Apple would launch an iPad mini with a 7.85-inch display. Speculation is now high that the launch could be announced October 17 — a week prior to the big Microsoft buzz about Windows 8 and in due time for the holiday rush and the seasonal year-end sales — in an attempt to lock new tablet buyers in to the iOS ecosystem. The biggest iPad mini conundrum is likely to be pricing — making sure that the new device remains competitive in the face of the iPad 2 and iPad 3 and the newly launched iPod Touch but also with Google's $199 Nexus 7 and the new $199 Kindle Fire HD. Don’t count on me to comment on rumors and share my personal take on the features the device could have, etc. Some of my colleagues are better placed than I am to make a call and will do so in due time.
Let’s step back from the hype for one moment.
It took two years for Apple to sell 67 million iPads versus 24 years to sell 67 million Macs. It took the company two years to sell one million iPods. Arguably, the iPod, coupled with the iTunes ecosystem, disrupted the music industry. Needless to say, new connected devices — mostly smartphones and tablets — will be even more disruptive. Forrester forecasts an installed base of 760 million tablets globally by 2016, and my colleague Frank Gillett has explained why we believe that tablets will run the personal computing landscape at work and at home.
My colleague Lindsey Colella and I attended the Vision Critical Summit in New York this week and were inspired by how market insights professionals are truly embracing the value of market research online communities (MROCs). Among the emerging and innovative methodologies, this is the one that we are seeing gaining significant traction: The Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report shows that this is the top emerging methodology used by client-side researchers — with 36% currently leveraging it.
What did we learn at the event? In addition to reinforcing MROC best-practice tips like closing the loop with panelists and incentivizing in a relevant way, which Lindsey recently wrote about in her report “Best Practices For Managing A Market Research Online Community,” the following best practices and examples caught our attention:
· Internal marketing is critical. Market insights professionals need to “sell” the value of MROCs to various business units across the organization. One electronics retailer did that by hosting monthly meetings in which the MI team presented all the research collected in the MROC to the cross-function business leaders.
I had the chance to catch up with Bert DuMars, VP of Digital Marketing & eCommerce at Newell Rubbermaid, in advance of his keynote later this month at the eBusiness Forum. I spoke with Bert about the impact of digital channels on the overall shopping experience, and how Newell Rubbermaid is charting a course for profitable eCommerce growth. Here are some of his thoughts.
Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the past 12 months that you're most excited about?
This summer, I vacationed in Redwoods National Park on the northern coast of California. Each day, my husband and I enjoyed peaceful hikes among the awe-inspiring trees that towered several hundred feet above us. But one thing caught me off guard: Far more often than I had anticipated, we encountered redwoods ripped from their roots, sprawled horizontally across the forest floor. Most had taken several other trees down with them. At first, I lamented the fate of each of these fallen giants. How unfortunate, I thought, that such a magnificent redwood would grow for half of a millennium, only to be toppled over in an unforgiving windstorm or to have its base weakened by fire.
And then I realized that the fallen trees might actually be a good thing. Standing at the base of each upended root system and looking up toward the sky, I could see a hole punched in the canopy above me that allowed rays of sunlight to reach the forest floor. I’m no biologist, but the sunlight seemed to encourage lush undergrowth that was absent elsewhere. Informational signs confirmed my suspicions: “Massive logs crisscross the forest floor, holding soils in place. Dozens of species of insects, birds, and mammals use them for shelter and food over the centuries of decay. Tanoaks, hemlocks, ferns, and huckleberries sprout on the nurse logs . . . Insects and bacteria live and feed on the wood.”
Reflecting back on my hikes through the redwood forest, I can’t help but wonder: What do most companies do when they encounter the customer experience equivalent of a fallen tree?
The other day, Smile*, one of the banks I have an account with, sent me a new contactless card.
The striking thing about this otherwise ordinary event was that the bank didn’t mention that it was a contactless card. I know it’s a contactless card because it has the contactless symbol on it. But nothing in the letter the bank sent with the card so much as mentioned the new contactless functionality. Logically, one of the following must be true:
Uncharitably, it could just be that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and the product team forgot to tell the marketing team it was doing anything new.**
Possibly, some slip meant that my envelope didn’t contain any marketing. But there’s no mention of contactless cards on the bank’s website either.
Alternatively, the bank simply reckons that the benefits of promoting the contactless functionality are so marginal that it’s not even worth the effort of changing its standard letter (which promotes card protection insurance in extensive detail).