Forrester is kicking off research on what it means to be a sustainable business and why it matters. In short, it matters because customers and investors care. But what do they care about? And, what does sustainability mean to them, and to the companies they do business with?
First stop in exploring the definition of something is, of course, a search for the term. “Sustainable” means that something can go on, and continue and “be maintained at a certain rate or level.” For consumers, that might mean their health, their environment, or the health and environment of others -- but also their budgets. The literature on sustainability often refers to three pillars: social, environmental and economic. But how does this translate into business metrics?
We have all this valuable data about our customers, but we need to make better use of it.
This is the most common theme I hear on inquiry calls, at conferences, and in advisory sessions. At this point, companies are fully aware that their data contains enormous value. In fact, I like to think that data has a potential value much like the concept of potential energy in physics. In physics, the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy requires force. In business, customer analytics is the Force that unlocks the hidden value in your customer data.
Because customer analytics often relies on advanced machine learning algorithms, it used to be the domain of statisticians who could write code in R or Python. Today, thanks to the 11 customer analytics solution providers in The Forrester Wave™: Customer Analytics Solutions, Q1 2016, customer insights professionals are applying these techniques to their data to address key business objectives. This report, which is only available to Forrester clients, evaluates the customer analytics solutions of Adobe, AgilOne, Angoss, Alteryx, FICO, IBM, Manthan, Pitney Bowes, SAP, SAS, and Teradata.
Many times, what we want says more about us than what we do. This is why readers are fascinated with news from the Consumer Electronics Show, which gives us an aspirational glimpse at the technology of tomorrow. This is why Google publishes the most frequently searched “how-to questions,” which reveal what people are striving for. It’s also why emerging customer insights methodologies like social listening, which uncover visceral consumer reactions and desires, are gaining traction.
Two weeks ago, people around the world expressed their wishes for 2016 by sharing their New Year’s resolutions online. What do people want this year? Forrester’s analysis of the social conversation shows that physical and mental wellbeing dominated most of the resolutions posted across the globe. But certain geographical differences shed light on varied cultures and attitudes. For example, while US consumers also discussed social causes and career goals, UK consumers mentioned artistic pursuits and relaxation:
I'm just back from two weeks in Hong Kong, where I'd been invited to give a keynote at the 10th anniversary conference of the Business Information Industry Association. Since I was there, I took the time to meet with some fantastic Forrester clients in industries ranging from travel to insurance to retail to consulting. In nearly every discussion, whether I was speaking to a BT or a marketing exec, we eventually got to the topic of the "privacy-personalization paradox."
This is an issue I've explored extensively, and have written about before. It's a challenge that marketers in the US dabble with when they're considering investments in tools like retail beacons and cross-device identity resolution. But it was enlightening to hear about the challenges that firms in APAC face: antiquated privacy laws, a dearth of third-party consumer data, and even the incredible difficulty of compiling a single customer view across their own first party data. Interestingly, though, the solution in both markets is similar: preference management.
In May, American Express launched Plenti, a U.S.-based coalition loyalty program with eight partners, including Macy's, AT&T, Exxon Mobil and Rite Aid. These types of programs, which let consumers earn and redeem a single currency across multiple partners, are popular in other areas of the world, but coalitions have historically failed to gain traction in the United States.
Plenti's initial progress indicates that it might buck the trend: It signed up more than 20 million members in its first two months reaching around 16% US household penetration. For reference, established coalitions such as AIR MILES, Nectar and FlyBuys have household penetration rates of more than 50%.
But any decent loyalty marketer knows enrollment doesn’t tell the whole story. Three things, in particular, give coalition in the U.S. a fighting chance:
The loyalty program landscape is crowded. Plenti entered the market at a time when companies across industries – from retail to travel/hospitality to automotive – invest in loyalty programs to drive retention, engagement and loyalty. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, consumers belong to an average of nine loyalty programs. The proliferation of branded programs makes it hard to stand out, and it shows: 58% of loyalty marketers that Forrester surveyed in 2015 indicated they were dissatisfied with their loyalty strategy. Coalition programs offer a differentiated value proposition: members shopping across partners experience an increased earning velocity and wider choices for redemption, which boost the utility and perceived value of the program.
In case you haven’t noticed, the number of smartphone users in Asia Pacific has grown – we estimate that it breached the 1 billion mark in 2014. This is the first time that more people in the region used smartphones than feature phones.
When coupled with the fact that the region is also a leader in innovative messaging apps, such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk, marketing professionals can start to see how Asia Pacific is ripening into a mobile-led commerce and marketing harvest – creating a commercial marketplace where users interact and trade and offering organizations growing sales and marketing opportunities.
However, many B2C marketing professionals today limit that potential by only focusing on promoting flash sales or discounts, as seen on the likes of WeChat and Line. Marketers must consider longer-term use cases to fully mine these apps' potential. Unless a messaging app user is specifically searching for and ready to buy a particular product or service, marketers who continue to pepper the app’s chat room with meaningless discount messages will have wasted their investment. In addition, users will likely move to the next competitive (i.e., cheaper) offering when it comes along, running the risk of marketers facing a race to the bottom with cutthroat pricing.
Most CMOs today have to close gaps in data collection within and across marketing units, integrate the data to transform it into actionable insights, and foster a closer working relationship among these units to achieve the overarching business goals. Building a command center may be a distant priority.
However, I have argued that digital command centers are intelligent nerve centers that let brands quickly track digital moments and respond appropriately to manage their reputation, retarget display ads, drive new sales opportunities, and provide customer support. In effect, it’s a marketing organization’s digital gold mine. On a broader scale, this marketing capability will importantly feed into an entire firm’s system of insights.
Here in the US, we’re gearing up to celebrate July 4, the day that everyone knows signifies America’s independence. But most people don’t know that the 1776 congress didn’t actually declare American independence on July 4. This date didn’t mark the start or end of the American Revolution. America’s Declaration of Independence wasn't even written, signed, or delivered to Great Britain on July 4.
We celebrate July 4 in the name of tradition — and we defer to assumptions rather than unearthing the true story. But when we dive a level deeper and look beyond the surface, we gain new depths of insight. When it comes to understanding customers, it’s time to take a deeper look.
The role of emotion is one of these “unknowns” in consumer behavior: An incisive view into consumer behavior reveals that emotion is more powerful than commonly thought. More than a mood, emotion is a key driver of customer decisions, actions, and perceived experiences —and pervades each stage of the purchase life cycle. For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Etsy inspires extremely positive consumer sentiment before, during, and after making a purchase:
Retaining and delighting empowered customers requires continuous, technology-enabled innovation and improved customer insight (CI). The logic is simple in theory, but that doesn’t make it any easier to implement in practice.
In my recent report, entitled “Applying Customer Insight To Your Digital Strategy”, I highlight the top lessons learned from organizations in Asia Pacific (AP) that are successfully leveraging CI to fuel digital initiatives. It all starts by ensuring that data-driven decision-making is central to the digital strategy. With that in mind, I want to use this blog post to focus on two key lessons from the report:
Lesson One: Establish A Clear Mandate To Invest In Customer Analytics
Successful companies serve empowered customers in the way they want to be served, not the way the company wants to serve them. When building a mandate you should:
■ Expect natural tensions between various business stakeholders to arise. To secure buy-in from senior business decision-makers, start by illustrating the clear link between digital capabilities and data as a source of improved customer understanding. Identify measurable objectives and then link them to three to four scenarios that highlight where the biggest opportunities and risks exist. Continue to justify data-related investments by restating these scenarios at regular intervals.
If you are excited about challenging thinking and leading change for our clients in customer analytics and enterprise marketing technologies, we’d love to hear from you. We have two open Customer Insights analyst positions to focus on these critical coverage areas – customer analytics and enterprise marketing technologies. You will write research for, present to, and advise Customer Insights Professionals to help guide their customer data, analytics, and marketing technology decisions.