Want To Better Understand Data And Metrics? A Recommended Reading List

"Let's just say I'm not lost when it comes to data . . . but I could be more found . . ." – (eBusiness team member at a top 50 US bank)

Digital teams are surrounded by data and metrics — from KPIs to customer analytics. Yet I often hear from clients who wish they were just a little more comfortable knowing what the data is really saying, or which metrics are most important.

We just published a brand new report on The Mobile Banking Metrics That Matter which outlines how mobile strategists at banks can put the right metrics in place and work with their analytics teams to get data outputs that guide them toward smart business decisions.

Writing this report got me thinking about which books, blogs, and articles I’ve found most useful when it comes to really getting data and metrics. Here are five I think might help you too:

  1. The Tiger That Isn’t. Probably my personal favorite book about stats and measurement. Written for a mainstream audience, the book works as a guide to thinking through what a given stat or data point really means — and when to trust or doubt such data. It’s also a great read, full of interesting nuggets and statistical oddities (like how the vast majority of people have an above-average number of legs). The book’s thesis is that people who consume data should be skeptical but not cynical about statistics. From there, it helps the reader more easily contemplate and act on the data and metrics they encounter.    
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The CEO Says Hire Salespeople! What's Next?

Your CEO just gave you your marching orders.  “We’re going to organically grow the top line and profits by 30% over the next year.  We’re going to grow the sales force to make this happen.  I’ve discussed this with the Board and they agree with the strategy.  So tell me what you need to accomplish this and let’s move forward.” 

As a sales leader the opportunity to rapidly grow sales seems exciting.  You’ve got the backing of the CEO, and the Board of Directors.  You’ve got air cover.  You’ve got a mandate.  This is the stuff that great success stories are written about (and great resume’s), right?  Yes it’ll be hard work, but you can just envision a year from now when your boss recognizes your success in growing the business on a big stage.  

As the Chief Sales Officer, one of two options is now available to you.  

Option #1

Your boss, the CEO, told you to jump and you answer “How high?”  You’re going to do exactly what your CEO told you to do.  So you gather your management team and enthusiastically communicate the challenge and opportunity ahead.  They’re all for it and will help rapidly put the plan together.  You talk with your counterparts in Human Resources, Training, and Sales Operations (who will coordinate with Facilities and IT for the required resources).  They’re all behind you (after all, this comes from the CEO).  A week later, you present your formal plan to the CEO and tell her that interview scheduling is already in process.   You’re on your way to growing sales and being a visible leader in a great success story.

Option #2

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Q&A With John Vanderslice, Global Head, Luxury And Lifestyle Brands, Hilton Worldwide

Way back in January I spoke at the Luxury FirstLook conference put on by Luxury Daily in New York (a terrific event, by the way). Several of the other speakers intrigued me. One, in particular, gave a speech that I immediately wanted to bring to attendees at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East: John T. A. Vanderslice, the global head of luxury and lifestyle brands at Hilton Worldwide (those brands being Waldorf Astoria and Conrad).

Here’s one of many things John said that struck me: "Today's luxury buyers make investments of passion." That’s a far cry from the way customer experience (CX) practitioners usually talk about emotional engagement. But it struck me as an authentic way to describe super-affluent buyers who’ll pay to reenact the life of a Roman gladiator or to take a trek through the wilds of Nepal.

I ambushed John on his way out the door and recruited him to speak at our forum, which he did earlier this week. He was great. And he was also gracious enough to answer some questions that we posed to him, which we’re now happy to share with you.

Enjoy!

John Vanderslice

1. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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The Cure For Digital Myopia Shows Its Face With Adobe's Acquisition Of Neolane

No sooner had I posted a blog on the issues of digital myopia than I got on a call to learn that Adobe Systems acquired Neolane, under the auspices of the fact that digital is part of marketing, not that digital is the only thing in marketing. This is a very interesting deal (full disclosure, Suresh Vittal, the chief product officer, was a peer of mine at Forrester until December of last year) for a number of reasons:

  1. It continues to place Adobe in the crosshairs of IBM, salesforce.com, Oracle, and SAP. Adobe continues to invest in areas that much larger companies have set their sights on — in this case, with the recent acquisitions of Eloqua by Oracle, ExactTarget by salesforce.com, ongoing acquisitions at IBM, and so on (see Forrester commentary by Mark Grannan here and by Shar VanBoskirk here). With Adobe now firmly in this mix, it will be going up against enterprise-level suppliers, not just marketing department deployments. 
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Adobe Acquires Neolane: Marketing Tech Gains An Accent

Adobe's announcement that the company will acquire Neolane comes nearly on the heels of Salesforce's acquisition of ExactTarget. Even at $600 million, the deal size won't draw attention like Benioff's blockbuster, but it shouldn't be downplayed. Adobe's reach across the marketing technology landscape — and campaign management's central position within it — means it will have an outsized effect on marketers. On it's face, the acquisition:

  • Addresses a market that Adobe previously ignored. Neolane closes Adobe's strategic and longstanding gap in campaign management. Whether you call it a marketing platform, suite, or cloud, Adobe now offers a broad spectrum of products to marketing departments, and now extends into offline. It is now also a much more serious competitor to the large, enterprise marketing providers: IBM, Oracle, SAS, and Teradata.
  • Offers a moderate extension of Adobe's marketing cloud. Neolane offers its products through a mix on-premises, hosted, and multi-tenant cloud delivery, though most clients opt for on-premises. While Neolane doesn't immediately transform the marketing cloud, Adobe's success with CQ5 shows that it's comfortable with hybrid delivery. Over time, however, Neolane's unified architecture and Adobe's SaaS-bonafides will allow it to shift more and more clients into campaign management as a subscription.
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Highlights From The Insight Innovation Exchange Conference

 

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Insight Innovation Exchange conference in Philadelphia. There were many vendors that offered solutions to many common challenges that market researchers face. One common theme I noticed was the challenge for market researchers to make sense of big data. Yes, big data has become something of a buzzword, but consumers are creating a lot more data and market researchers can thrive if they embrace it.

For some time now, Forrester has been writing about the importance of incorporating behavioral tracking insights to marketer researchers’ research mix. Don’t get me wrong — survey research is and will continue to be incredibly important for companies to gain insights on consumers. A survey can capture a variety of consumer behaviors, sentiments, and attitudes. In one survey, marketers can assess their market share and find out the profile of their customers and what they want. And survey research can help provide insight into the “why” — the reasoning behind the choices that consumers make — something that is not possible with behavioral data. However, survey research cannot detail granular activities due to respondent recall. Enter big data, and with it many possibilities for behavioral tracking. Yes, this is nothing new for customer intelligence professionals, who analyze customer transactions, online web tracking, and other consumer behaviors. But by combining survey and behavioral data, marketers get the best of both worlds: They get consumer profiles and psychographics, brand health metrics, and a detailed record of the actions that those consumers actually do.

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Let's talk content marketing

"What's at the heart of content marketing?"
"Why does content marketing make sense for me?"
"How do I do it well?"

Chances are, you're asking yourself one or, indeed, all of the above questions. And that is why I have decided to join Forrester's Marketing Leadership research team as a senior analyst.

I've been working with content marketing since 1998, well before it was called content marketing, and most recently at an agency that specialized in it, Velocity Partners. Before that, I helped major Scandinavian brands like Kongsberg and ABB understand how to weave content marketing in their marketing strategy and mix.

Every time I discuss content marketing with practitioners, two observations regularly surface:

1. It's very powerful. The idea of doing marketing that customers want, that they even seek out, is enticing. It can create a virtuous cycle that makes everything else (social media, email marketing, events and campaigns) much more effective. Red Bull is the consumer brand poster boy for this, but companies as diverse as GE, Hubspot, American Express, Ford and IBM are also doing it well.

2. It's very difficult. Most brands have very little experience making content that customers want and seek out. Producing great content-driven experiences, repeatedly, over time and with a limited budget, that deliver visible value for customers and prospects, and that drive business outcomes for the brand, is hard. It's particularly hard for marketers accustomed to a product-benefit or brand benefit frame of thinking, and the big bang ad campaigns that go with it.

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The Path Toward eCommerce Maturity

Last year, we introduced our framework for how eCommerce markets evolve: Consumers come online to connect and entertain, then start to engage in eBusiness basics like online banking and travel.** Only later do they tend to start purchasing physical products online, with readily comparable goods like mobile phones, computer hardware and books being some of consumers' first online purchases. The final phase involves consumers buying across a wide variety of categories online, including those with a strong “touch and feel” component to them:

Clients can access our recently updated report on this topic, which includes lots of new forecast data and notes how countries have moved through these phases. Brazil, for example, which was solidly in phase 3 last year, has started moving toward the final phase, where categories like apparel and beauty start to become a much more critical piece of the eCommerce market. A look at the shift in MercadoLivre’s GMV category ranking in 2012 gives one snapshot of this evolution:

Source: MercadoLivre

Also included in our updated report is a look at how online retailer offerings in each market tend to differ depending on the phase the country is in. This report forms the vision report chapter of our upcoming eCommerce globalization playbook. 

 

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Announcing Forrester's 2013 Outside In Award Winners

We just announced the winners of Forrester’s inaugural Outside In Awards at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East this afternoon. The awards recognize organizations that excel at the practices needed for planning, creating, and managing a great customer experience. We accepted nominations in six categories that align with the six customer experience disciplines in our research: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and customer-centric culture.

To evaluate the submissions, each panel of judges graded each nomination form on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. Each category was judged independently, and there could be up to three winners in any category. Winners and finalists were chosen based on their scores.

And the winners are . . . 

  • Ally Bank for design.
  • American Cancer Society for measurement.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for customer understanding.
  • The Lego Group for measurement.
  • Pitney Bowes for measurement.
  • PwC Australia for design.
  • Safelite AutoGlass for customer-centric culture.
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How To Become Customer-Obsessed In B2B

In June 2011, Josh Bernoff revisited Michael Porter's competitive strategy work to show business has entered a new era where competitive advantage will come from obsessing over your best customers. In this seminal report (subscription required), Josh argued that the only way companies will stand apart from competition is by combining information, technology, and strategy to deeply understand customers and demonstrate that understanding through product, marketing, and service interactions.

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