Standing in an aisle of a big box retailer, I bought a new electric shaver from a competing retailer’s online store. The store’s shaving display reminded me that my razor was dying. Not knowing which to choose, I twitched for my iPhone, scanned a barcode, read several reviews, explored competing products, found the best price, and ordered it with free shipping. I saved $75 over the same model I could have purchased then and there.
My example is commonplace today. Perpetually connected customers – 42% of US online adults and 37% in Europe – can engage brands at any place, any time, and at any velocity. The technology trends that lead retailers to worry about showrooming touch every industry. Each brand must anticipate connected customers’ demand for information, reviews, and engagement. They must realign technology, processes, and talent to recognize customers in microseconds, using real-time signals to predict their needs and paths to purchase. And they must see that this problem can’t be solved with faster technology alone.
The opportunity China represents is undeniable, especially in light of the stalled economic recovery in both North America and Europe. However, as I write in my new report out today "Select The Right Interactive Agency In China," the consumer and technology landscape in China is changing faster than supermodels in between struts down the catwalk. And, the threat of failure looms large for brands with a shallow understanding of Chinese consumer behavior, cultural expectations, and digital platforms.
The travel poster might read something like this: “Satisfy your thirst for adventure on the newest frontier with a luxury, guided expedition to the latest exoplanet.” Like just about everyone else on this planet, you’ve probably seen, heard, or know something about the film Avatar. What you may not know is that Pandora is based on a very real and recently discovered solar system — Alpha Centauri.
It has about the same mass as Earth. Like Earth, it circles a star. And at a mere 4.4 light years away (just a hop, skip, and a jump in astronomical terms), it’s close enough to make an interstellar journey feasible. While Alpha Centauri isn’t habitable (minor detail), some of its neighbors might be. As intriguing as such a journey would be, it would also be daunting. It would require an in-depth analysis of a constellation of factors. And it would mean asking and answering a litany of questions. What would a successful journey look like? What would it take to reach the destination in terms of technology? What kind of budget would be required? How do you convince early voyagers that a trip to Alpha Centauri would be the best journey of their lives and answer their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) questions?
If you still believe that tablets are merely a fad or just a way to engage more affluent early adopters in their 30s or 40s, you need to change your mind — now.
According to our latest Technographics® data, European tablet ownership is highest among 18- to 24-year-old online users — 25% of them own one! 2012 saw a surge in the popularity of tablets among this age group. Why? As with any technology that’s reaching critical mass, the profile of its adopters evolves over time — and it will continue to do so.
With double-digit growth in tablet uptake across Western Europe in 2012, about one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. And with further double-digit growth expected in the years ahead, tablets are changing the consumer technology landscape. According to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global), 55% of European online consumers will own a tablet by the end of 2017.
Tablet owners are not precious about their devices: Of those that have a spouse/partner, 63% share their tablet with them; one-third of parents share their tablet with their children. This makes tablets a far more social device than smartphones, which are much more personal and intimate.
Tablet ownership in Western Europe is set to quadruple in the next five years: The percentage of European online consumers who own a tablet will increase from 14% in 2012 to 55% in 2017, according to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global). This dramatic growth follows what was a pivotal year for tablets: Ownership doubled in 2012, and one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. The recently published Forrester report “The European Tablet Landscape” draws on our Technographics® data and looks at the profile of European tablet owners and their usage patterns. We found that:
Unsurprisingly, tablet owners are tech-savvy. Today, tablets are most popular with 18- to 24-year-olds, with one in four online consumers in this age group now owning a tablet. Of all tablet owners, a high 45% state that they “like technology” and 36% agree that “technology is important for me.”
Income is a driver . . . for now. About 24% of high-income European online consumers have a tablet, compared with 15% of online low-income consumers. But the growing variety of tablets and form factors as well as more competitive pricing will make tablets affordable for a wider range of consumers.
Wednesday night, Sony hosted what was reported to be a crowd of more than a thousand people at a rare, Applesque new-product demo. There it debuted the next-generation Playstation, officially dubbed the PS4. The event lasted two hours and featured some of the most accomplished game developers in the world, all on stage to promise that the PS4 was going to make gaming even more lifelike, more responsive, and more addicting than it already is.
I could have saved the company the two hours and the cost of hosting the event. Because boil Sony's announcement down to its essence, and you get these simple words: Sony believes the future will be like the past and has built the game console to prove it.
Don't get me wrong; the console is definitely next-generation (or at least, the specs are next-generation, since the console itself did not make an appearance at the event). It has stunning graphics and the kind of processing power necessary to create lifelike movement and even give game characters artificial-intelligence capabilities that should make hardcore gamers hungry with anticipation for the end of the year (the most specific Sony got about the release timeframe).
I am excited to announce that after more than two decades as an executive and leader in digital marketing, eCommerce, social media marketing, and business technology, I have joined Forrester as a Vice President, Principal Analyst serving CMOs. One of the main reasons I decided to join Forrester was that I had been a client for more than nine years and had great experiences using Forrester reports and analyst interactions to achieve my business goals and objectives at Newell Rubbermaid and US Department of the Treasury, IRS. My relationship with Forrester goes even further back, as I briefed Forrester on my Intel and Dell products and technologies back in the 1990s. Also, it turned out that I knew more people at Forrester than any other firm . . . so as the old saying goes, I liked and respected the company so much as a client that I decided to join.
Another reason I joined Forrester, and the most important one, is to help CMOs and senior marketing executives solve problems in marketing to today’s consumers. In a world of digital disruption, ultra-connected consumers, and an ever-evolving customer life cycle, the challenge and complexity of marketing to consumers has never been greater. I believe that to overcome these challenges, CMOs are going to have to accelerate their innovation efforts and become digital disruptors in their target markets to succeed.
With that in mind, here are some questions I will be working on as I research CMO-led marketing innovation:
How do CMOs define marketing innovation, and what role are they playing in driving it?
How do CMOs drive innovation in different organizational cultures, ranging from experimental to risk-averse?
What models, processes, and frameworks are CMOs using to drive marketing innovation?
What are CMOs budgeting for innovation now, and how much do they expect to grow their innovation budget in the future?
As part of my research at Forrester, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know companies developing technology solutions for K-12 and higher education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and Udacity give students around the world access to high-quality courses for free or at a fraction of the cost of a traditional university. Platforms like Inkling, Kno, and CourseSmart make distributing, purchasing, and consuming digital textbooks more convenient and engaging. Supplemental content sources like Khan Academy and TenMarks give students resources to learn at their own pace.
It’s worth thinking seriously about how these solutions will change the nature of education. Many of the changes are positive. We expand access to education across the globe. At the same time we increase scale, we also enable more individualized, self-paced learning, presumably at a reduced cost. For example, millions of students can dissect a cow’s eye in a virtual biology lab without the incremental cost of buying more cow’s eyes or scalpels or formaldehyde - and they could do it again if they miss something the first time. Through analytics embedded in texts, apps, and diagnostic tools, teachers will get real-time feedback and can make more-informed decisions about how to teach.
Look over there. See the guy in the queue flicking his mobile screen . . . tapping his phone on the reader, then walking out with his sandwich?
He's your new customer. Wow, is he demanding.
In 2011, Forrester first started to track this type of customer -- that is, someone with three or more connected devices who goes online multiple times a day from multiple locations. We found that 38% of US adults fit the description. That's an impressive debut, but the growth of this type of customer is even more staggering. We expect that by the end of 2013, nearly half of global online adults will be perpetually connected.
These people have new expectations. They don't want intrusive ads buzzing in their pockets. They want valuable content or service. They appreciate the soft sell. The needs and behaviors of these customers are so radical, so game-changing, that they subvert every rule of classic marketing.
At our upcoming Forrester Marketing Leadership Forums -- April 18-19 in Los Angeles and May 21-22 in London -- we'll help marketers embrace this change so you can continue to create relevance and market share with your perpetually connected customers. As the host and research champion of both events, I'm deep in content development with both our external speakers and Forrester analysts. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets from our content meetings so far:
I was flipping through the 2012 Forrester Voice of the Customer Award nomination forms the other day, and I realized that I’ve been unwittingly holding on to an valuable resource — all the advice that we asked nominees to impart on other voice of the customer programs. The very last of the six questions on our nomination form is, “What advice would you give to other organizations to make their programs successful?” We got some great answers from the 40 or so nominated companies, so I pulled together the top 10 pieces of advice. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own VoC program, look no further than the advice of your peers.
1. Build executive support. The majority of nominees offered this advice, and it’s consistent with Forrester’s own research showing that executive support builds a foundation for VoC success. Executive support helps CX pros put key building blocks in place, such as adequate tools to collect and analyze data and processes to systematically act on it. How do you build support? Prove the value of the program by demonstrating tangible business value. Track the results of service recovery efforts to save unhappy customers and aggregate the results of improvement projects initiated by VoC-collected data.