Why It Takes Guts To Do Human-Centered Design

The right customer interactions, implemented the right way, don't just happen. Instead, they must be actively designed. This requires learning — and then sticking to — the steps in a human-centered design process. But this approach is not for the faint of heart.

If you want to embrace human-centered design, you have to admit that you don’t know the answers to your problems. At its core, design is a problem-solving process. It takes into account the needs of customers, employees, and stakeholders — and it can be applied to create new (or improved) products, services, and experiences. While that all sounds good, embarking on a problem-solving project implicitly means you don’t have the answers to your current business problems. And in today’s solution-focused business environment, not having an answer can be seen as a weakness.

In fact, we’re so solution-focused that providing answers has become almost a knee-jerk reaction. Here’s a quick experiment: Ask the next colleague you see how to solve a particular problem, and she’ll likely give you an answer or two — maybe even three. It’s very unlikely that your colleague will pause for a moment, reflect on your question, and proceed to ask you more about the challenge you’re facing. But that’s exactly the approach that human-centered design takes.

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Commerce Server, Cactus Commerce & Ascentium - The Path Forward

In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything flows and nothing stands still. This is certainly true of Ascentium, the Seattle based interactive agency that last year acquired Cactus Commerce and Microsoft’s Commerce Server. This week, the company firmed up its strategy following last year’s acquisition spree. The result: the company is splitting in two, creating two separate entities focusing on services and product respectively. 

They are:

  • SmithSmith is the result of merging together Ascentium and Cactus Commerce. The old brands are now gone for good, and the new brand with a headcount of over 300 staff aims to offer both digital agency and commerce technology services to its brand partners.
  • Commerce Server.net– After the takeover of Microsoft’s Commerce Server product last November, Ascentium quickly re-branded the product as Ascentium Commerce Server 2009. Yesterday, Smith (previously Ascentium) announced that the product division of the company (a combination of the product IP from Microsoft and the product development resources from Cactus) has been re-branded as a wholly owned, but independently managed subsidiary called Commerce Server.net
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The Mobile Imperative During The Holidays

It’s no longer a question of whether or not consumers will adopt mobile as an interaction and transaction channel this holiday shopping season. Over the last year, mobile has proven itself to be a viable channel that will play an increasingly prevalent role this year and in future years.

Case in point: mobile retail set records this holiday shopping season with 16 percent of all online sales being conducted through a mobile device -- compared to 9.8 percent last year. In addition, 24 percent of consumers use a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Whether it’s a tablet, an iPhone, or an Android, consumers are researching more products and making more purchases than ever before through their mobile devices. A full overview of the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Cyber Monday data, which is a cloud-based web analytics platform that tracks more than a million e-commerce transactions a day, analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide, can be found here.

Why the mobile push? For consumers, it’s about convenience, efficiency, and accessibility, whether shopping online or in-store. Some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, however, are still wary of mobile and hesitant to bridge ecommerce mobile initiatives with the in-store experience. That attitude has to change in order for these retailers to keep pace with the multiscreen, digital consumer. Today, four in 10 smartphone users search for an item and research prices while they’re right in the store.

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Are you spending enough on eBusiness?

Ever wonder if you're spending enough on your eBusiness efforts compared with your peers? We've been benchmarking key metrics like team size, channel responsibilities, and spending for four years and this week we’ve launched our quarterly eBusiness and Channel Strategy Panel Survey to keep adding to that rich data.

We have designed the survey to help eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals determine the size of companies' eBusiness budgets, the size of their technology investments, and how these numbers compare with overall firm spending.  Additionally, it will shed light on the key roles and responsibilities eBusiness executives are playing, what channels firms focusing on, and where future investment priorities lie. 

Here are the details:

  • The survey takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
  • Responses will be kept strictly confidential and published only in an aggregated and anonymous manner.
  • Respondents will receive a free copy of the survey results and a free Forrester report.

Here's the link to the survey again. Thanks for participating!

Fresh Off The Press: What Did Consumers Do On Black Friday And Cyber Monday?

Some of you may not be aware that Forrester manages a market research online community (MROC) comprising 1,500 US online consumers recruited from our quantitative Consumer Technographics® surveys. While our Technographics surveys tell us what consumers do, the proprietary data we collect from our MROC completes the story by highlighting why consumers behave that way.

This year, Black Friday saw a record 89 million shoppers, up 3 million from 2011, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. In anticipation of this behemoth shopping day, we recently tasked our online community members with telling us anything and everything about their holiday shopping plans. This past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we fielded a few short surveys to capture what our members were doing at that moment — what they bought, who they bought for, where they bought, and how much of their holiday shopping they accomplished.

At the end of this year, we will post a comprehensive report on our findings for the full holiday season. But to give you a small preview of what’s to come, here are a few “fresh from the field” insights that intrigued us right off the bat.

On both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers primarily shop for their children and spouses. However, consumers are also shopping for themselves as well.

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Is Your Organization Ready For Cross-Channel Attribution?

I am a measurement geek. I get great joy from analyzing data, measuring customer behavior, and assessing marketing campaigns. It’s something that I’ve done for years, across different organizations, agencies, and service providers. And that’s why I’m so interested in attribution measurement — it’s a data geek’s dream. Connecting data and unveiling the dimensions of customer behavior and interaction paths is fascinating; it provides an enormous amount of information about customers and prospects, their preferences, and how they want to interact with a brand.

However, attribution measurement requires more than just analyzing data. It requires coordination of lots of moving parts. Data needs to be connected; technologies need to communicate with each other; resources need to work together; and organizations need to agree on metrics and analysis standards. It’s not an easy task. And speaking from experience, attribution measurement is a long, complex journey.
 
My most recent report, “Are You Ready For Cross-Channel Attribution?,” enables organizations to score their attribution maturity across six core component areas: strategy, organization and resources, technology, data, analytics, and optimization. Once an organization tallies up its scores in each area, it can determine where it falls on the attribution maturity spectrum: novice, intermediate, proficient, or expert. This framework allows organizations to pinpoint their attribution strengths and determine attribution gaps. Also, the framework provides organizations with specific recommendations on what attribution-related tasks they need to focus on to become experts.
 
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Jump Start Your Online Community

 

Over 40% of business technology decision-makers indicate that support forums, discussion forums, and professional social networks influence them throughout their online journey. Yet many marketers overlook the impact of the conversations that occur within these networks.

Chances are your company has an online community that requires your attention. Whether you have a support forum on your corporate website, a company page on LinkedIn, or a brand page on Facebook, somewhere there is a community of customers, partners, and influencers that is talking about your brand.

It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with your community members, but it requires a new marketing mindset. It requires a shift from traditional media creation to social capital creation. It requires an ability to engage and motivate influencers. It also requires time, energy, and commitment from you and the stakeholders within your organization.

It is difficult to ignore the impact that community interactions have on decision-makers. But why do online communities often fail? We speak to many clients who struggle with establishing their communities and found five common mistakes:

1.       Choosing the wrong approach. Communities are not a “one size fits all” strategy for customer engagement. Companies must understand how and where their customers and prospects prefer to engage online and the types of activities that will drive member participation.

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Agile Commerce – that’s Forrester’s word for “Omnichannel,” right?

You’ve all heard the term “Omnichannel.” And since you are reading this blog I’m going to assume you’ve also all heard the term “Agile Commerce.” If not, then stop reading now and check out Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce and Agile Commerce: Know it When You See It.

So either you are back, or you were with me all along. But now you are wondering “Ok, so what is the difference?” Let’s look at what the two terms really mean. Omnichannel doesn’t have a formal definition, though here’s what the oracle that is Wikipedia says…

Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to, and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog, and so on.”

On the other hand, Forrester defines agile commerce as…

“An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

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Outside In Holiday Promotion — Signed Books For Your Clients Or Employees

Looking for the perfect gift to show your clients or employees the value of customer experience? How about a copy of Outside In signed by one of the authors? We’ll be happy to oblige, as long as you have a mailing address in the US. You’ll buy the books, and we’ll do the signing and pay to ship them back to you. Here’s how it works:

  1. Contact Forrester’s Megan Reinhart (mreinhart@forrester.com) to let us know you’re participating and how many books you’d like us to sign.
  2. Go to the Outside In page on 800CEOREAD.com. Buy enough books for your clients and employees and have them shipped to us. 800CEOREAD.com offers books at 43% off, $14.25 each, for bulk orders. Ship to either address, depending on the author you’d like to have sign the books:
    Harley Manning
    60 Acorn Park Drive
    Cambridge, MA 02140
    Kerry Bodine
    150 Spear Street, Suite 1100
    San Francisco, CA 94105
  3. When we receive the books, the author will sign them (Harley in Cambridge or me in San Francisco). We’ll also include a short message of your choosing, as long as it’s something we’re comfortable with.
  4. We’ll ship them back to you at our expense.
  5. You can distribute them to your clients or employees however you’d prefer — by mail or in person.

Happy holidays!

The Data Digest: The Information Sources That US Online Holiday Shoppers Use

In the recently published report “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2012” Forrester estimates that US holiday season online retail sales will grow 15% from 2011 to 2012. While the number of US online holiday shoppers is expected to grow very little compared with last year, the average US online shopper will spend about 12% more than last year. But, as my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru shares in her blog on this topic, consumers are harder to impress this year. Satisfying the expectations of online shoppers during the holiday season is crucial to the Q4 success of retailers.

What kind of information sources are US online shoppers using most when considering products for purchase? Forrester's North American Technographics® Retail Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, Q3 2012 (US) shows that easy access to shipping costs is extremely important, followed by product ratings and reviews from other customers, and product information from retailers.

This holiday season, consumers are more likely than ever to visit a website before buying gifts; in fact, it will be the channel of choice for many. Retailers already go big on promotions, but if they don't have their basics in order — such as search, navigation, and checkout — customers will quickly move on to a competitor to find that great deal.