Most of them are US startups initially backed by venture capital (VC). Some of them are now worth more than $1 billion; others are planning for an IPO; and a couple of them have been acquired for a lot of money while generating little (if any) revenue. Most originated in social media, in the collaborative economy, and pretty much all of them depend on mobile as a significant and growing part of their business. They represent the typical attendees at the LeWeb conference in Paris, looking to become the next Facebook or Amazon in the next 10 years. Some other smaller and less well-known startups competing in LeWeb's startup competition this year may join this list: http://paris.leweb.co/programme/startup-competition
In fact, what they really have in common is that they are all digital disruptors leveraging digital platforms to create new experiences on top of connected devices. They are taking advantage of open development tools and free infrastructure resources to overhaul products, invert category economics, and redefine customer relationships. They are more agile than traditional companies. As my colleague James L. McQuivey stated recently, digital disruption requires an organizational fix if you don’t want your company to be disrupted.
The age of the customer is a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful companies will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. Re-engineering your company to become customer-obsessed will be hard work, but savvy C-level executives I’ve been speaking with about this tectonic shift immediately grasp the opportunity.
I spoke about the age of the customer today at LeWeb Paris (you can see the video here, and my slides here) where I focused on one early element of customer empowerment - the mobile mind shift. Your customers expect any information or service they desire be available to them on any device, in context, at their moment of need. Forrester’s global Mobile Mind Shift Index measures how far along a group of consumers are in this change in attitude and behavior.
To serve these customers, you will have to move from systems of record to systems of engagement. Apps are just a small part of that equation. Instead, we’re talking about re-engineering your entire company to deliver great digital experiences. Your brands will compete against Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon for setting the bar for great customer experiences. What It Means: In the future, every company will be a software company. Software is the new business currency more important than financial capital.
As we ramp up our coverage of the digital store, we recently researched the role of retail sales associates to understand their impact in the age of the customer. There’s no doubt that technology has dramatically impacted the way in which consumers discover, explore, buy, and engage with brands, products, and services. However, the impact of technology on sales associates is unclear, as is the degree to which the role of the sales associate needs to evolve to leverage these new capabilities.
In the new report A New Generation Of Clienteling, we tackle the role of sales associates and their use of technology in the digital store. In the report, we note a number of trends, including the following:
The role of the associate will change from an information provider to a facilitator of engagement. The sales associate is no longer the sole provider of information in stores: Customers can now find product information via their mobile device without the help of an associate. This scenario provides an opportunity for the sales associate to pivot and drive increased engagement with the customer.
Digitally connected sales associates are trusted. Less than a quarter of US online adult today state that sales associates are the best source for product information. However, when armed with mobile devices, the associate is seen as a trusted advisor. The breadth of information available to sales associates via mobile devices allows them to consider a broader array of information when making product recommendations to customers in the store.
I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.
After one of the biggest announcements in the marketing technology space of 2013 — Salesforce.com's purchase of ExactTarget — few were surprised to see the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud feature prominently at Dreamforce last week in San Francisco. But the real headline grabber was the introduction of Salesforce1, a cloud-based platform for what the company calls the "Internet of customers." We've got a deeper look into the implications of this for marketers for Forrester clients, but some of our key takeaways were that Salesforce:
Gets the age of the customer and what it means for their products. CEO Marc Benioff spoke at length about the "customers behind the devices" and the importance of engaging with those individuals, rather than the things they use to connect to the Web. We are in what Forrester calls the age of the customer, where "the most successful enterprises reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers." The Salesforce1 vision is to be the technology engine behind those firms — and the announcement takes a big step in that direction.
I was recently invited to speak at the three-day Distree Asia Pacific event on technology and business model disruptions and their impact on tech distribution, where I spoke with tech vendors, consumer electronics (CE) giants, tech distributors, retailers, and e-tailers from across Asia Pacific. We discussed various topics, including the channel scenario for the coming two to five years. Based on these inputs and my understanding, I believe that the traditional IT channel, including consumer-focused distributors, will soon disappear unless its current business model changes. Here’s why:
Direct market resellers (DMRs) and e-tailers are taking the flab out of the traditional channel. Although a large number of consumers still prefer to shop offline, increasing consumer confidence and further adoption of online payments in Asia Pacific mean that more and more DMRs will establish their presence on the Web, targeting consumers with low-cost products. eCommerce sites like Lazada are trying to build an Amazon-like model for Southeast Asia. The entry of nontraditional players such as government-owned Indian Railways,which recently launched its own eCommerce retail marketplace in India selling electronics and IT products, is also disrupting the traditional channel ecosystem.
I am a new senior analyst on the customer experience team, based in London, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and share some thoughts about my first report. My areas of expertise include digital customer experience, measurement, strategy, customer understanding, and design. For my first report, I have decided to tackle a topic that occupied a lot of my time as a customer experience (CX) practitioner, namely technology.
As a former customer experience practitioner, I found myself gravitating between the driver seat, the passenger seat, and the backseat when it came to technology decisions — part buyer, part advisor, and part bystander. I worked closely with IT on digital CX and had some very fruitful interactions with IT colleagues about customer experience in general — and customer journey and ecosystem mapping, in particular. I also experienced firsthand the fragmentation of IT spending as more business owners spend more from their own budgets on IT in order to win, retain, and engage with customers. And of course, as many of you, I witnessed IT projects derail or gain a life of their own, to the detriment of the customer experience. Technology is everywhere, every business is now a digital business, and customer experience professionals are facing a tsunami of technology choices as the tech industry enters a period of unprecedented innovation and more and more vendors align themselves with the customer experience buzz. In this first report, I want to explore:
How involved are customer experience professionals in technology decisions? Are they in a position to influence these decisions?
Over the past few months, SAP Services has embarked on a major software-enabled services transformation of its offerings and operating models. The strategic intent is to increasingly rely on IP-based solutions (including SAP’s Rapid Deployment Solutions portfolio and assemble-to-order methodology) to deliver outcomes faster, with lower risks for clients and, eventually, support value-based pricing. Next on SAP Services’ transformation road map? I believe that the organization needs to quickly change the perception of the rest of the SAP ecosystem, which still views SAP Services as a competitor.
SAP Services’ business model used to merely rely on staffing “rock star” consultants on client projects in order to facilitate the implementation of complex solutions. The new strategy aims at positioning the 15,000 service professionals on SAP’s newer solutions (e.g., cloud, mobile, HANA . . .) in order to ensure that early projects generate the promised outcomes. In order to achieve this goal, the delivery teams need to be much more focused on collaborating internally (with the R&D team, for instance) as well as externally (with clients). SAP Services will also need to increasingly work collaboratively with its partners in order to ensure the success of the overall SAP-as-a-Platform strategy.
In “Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” Forrester shows that “in a world where empowered customers are disrupting every industry . . . the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” This is not about mere customer centricity. This is about customer obsession.
This customer obsession is particularly crucial in the world of big-box and online retail. With so much pricing and product information available at customers’ fingertips — at home and in the store — retailers are highly vulnerable to price undercutting and switching. Big-box retailers compete fiercely on price, and providing good value is a customer requirement. But our research shows that to be a leading retail brand, retail marketers must differentiate through the promise and delivery of superior customer experience.
In May 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,575 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century big-box retail brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components:
The TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand. Is your brand a trailblazer — winning consumer mindshare — or astray — lost its way and connection to consumers?
The TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along the four dimensions. Is your brand strong on being trusted? Weak on being essential?
Brands deals with human needs and wants. Leo Burnett, the advertising executive, said: "The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams, and hopes." Smart brands know not to initially focus on what they have to sell but rather on how it meets consumers' needs. If you can address a strong consumer need, you will get those consumers to act. If you can get them to act, then you have opened an all-important channel of dialogue.
The fulfillment of consumer needs, however, is not always a linear hierarchic approach as proposed by Maslow and effectively debunked by Forrester analyst James McQuivey in his book Digital Disruption. Human needs take place simultaneously and are fuelled by a mix of short- and long-term motivations — some conscious and some unconscious. As a student, I would sometimes forgo food on a Friday so I could afford to go to a concert that night; or consider a Spanish couple postponing the short-term comfort of a much-needed upgrade to their central heating so they can put their child through the next year of college.
The pyramid diagram below shows how the foundation of this needs-based thinking is built from the ground up, from customer descriptions through to the technology and KPIs applied.