with Allison Smith, Xiaofeng Wang and Vanessa Zeng
Chinese social platforms have started to engage in commerce via partnerships with eCommerce marketplaces, but online sales conversion rates from social traffic have been disappointing. For example, in May, 360buy (JD.com) — the second-largest B2C eCommerce marketplace — received a level-one access point on WeChat, the hottest social platform in China, but this didn’t deliver the large quantity of fulfilled mobile orders that the company expected. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com, confirmed during the company’s Q3 financial earnings call that the majority of fulfilled mobile orders still originate from JD.com’s own mobile app. Forrester sees two major inhibitors of social commerce in China:
People don’t expect to see commercial promotions of products they don’t want on social media. Consumers normally blacklist friends or public accounts that push these ads, making it difficult to implement traditional B2C or C2C eCommerce models on social platforms. However, if social marketplaces can provide people a tool in those moments in which they actually want to buy a certain product, it may enable social commerce.
Customers have poor discovery and buying experiences on social commerce platforms. Social platforms in China that sell products and services online have limited search functionality, which does not make for a user-friendly customer discovery stage. Chinese consumers have gotten used to being able to compare many products and prices when making online purchases — but current social commerce platforms can’t support that.
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
Forrester recently published its 2015 Predictions for Asia Pacific. I wanted to highlight some specific trends around customer insights (CI) and big data, two very hot topics for many AP-based organizations.
We strongly believe that success for many organizations hinges on your ability to close the gap between available data and actionable insight. Marketing is taking the lead here, as CI pros seek to use data to fuel customer engagement improvements. Hence 2015 will be a year of increased fragmentation as reliance on analytics spreads across organizations.
What will this mean for you? More cloud-based and mobile analytics, more demand for interactive and responsive analytics, and more use of specialist and niche BI and analytics service providers. Given this backdrop, Forrester believes that:
Analytics spending will increase by at least 10% across the region. Yes analytics spending will increase, but less of it will be visible in the CIO's budget. Marketing and other business departments will drive analytics investments to address specific challenges and opportunities. The technology management (TM) organization will have little control over the implementation and deployment of niche and specialist BI and analytics services.
In 2014, Forrester outlined a new approach to marketing that requires brands to harness customer context to deliver self-perpetuating cycles of real-time, two-way, insight-driven interactions. In 2015, we’ll see more marketers obsess over customers’ context. As more interaction data floods customer databases and marketing automation systems, customer-obsessed marketing leaders will strive to orchestrate brand experiences that drive unprecedented levels of engagement. For example, we predict that:
Digital marketing investments will drive brand experiences across the customer life cycle. By the end of 2015, spend on digital marketing will top $67 billion — growing to 27% of all ad spend. In fact, we believe this will surpass TV spend by 2016; there’s more to the story than ad spend. We believe marketers will branch out of expected digital media buys to stimulate more insight-driven interactions with customers throughout the entire customer life cycle. Supported by new streams of situational customer data and powered by the ability to precisely target audiences with programmatic media buying, marketers will deliver highly engaging brand experiences rather than just feed the top of the funnel.
Today, my co-author Rusty Warner and I published the first-ever Forrester Wave: Enterprise Marketing Software Suites, Q4 2014. Or, as they are popularly referred to, the “marketing clouds.” The evaluation looked at the eight vendors vying to convince marketers of their ability to provide an integrated portfolio of products that span all of marketing’s needs. Integration is increasingly important to marketers in their efforts to understand the full customer life-cycle and be able to execute across all interactions.
Forrester defines an enterprise marketing software suite (EMSS) as: an integrated portfolio of marketing technology products that provide analytics, automation, and orchestration of insight-driven customer interactions to support inbound and outbound marketing.
Chinese people are hypersocial in their lifestyle and daily work, and Forrester forecasts that 681 million of them will be using social media by 2019. Online Chinese are actively engaging with brands and companies on social media: 29 brands or companies on Sina Weibo and 32 brands or companies on WeChat on average. Chinese businesses have realized the importance of social for customer life-cycle management. While they’ve started using social to increase brand awareness — such as broadcasting on Sina Weibo — they can’t recognize potential customers in this one-way communication. They use public WeChat accounts to shorten response times to client service requests — but they can’t predict these requests in advance. To address these challenges, businesses in China are starting to use enterprise-class analytics tools for Chinese social platforms.
Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
How does the CI pro responsible for marketing technology buying make an informed decision when faced with so many options? Well, to quote Ron Davies (feel free to summon the voices of Three Dog Night, David Bowie or Shelby Lynne, if you prefer), “It Ain’t Easy!” To help CI pros with their decision-making, my latest brief The Marketing Technology Buyer’s Dilemma provides advice on how to maintain customer focus while navigating market changes.
This past Friday I had one of the most enjoyable meetings of my professional life. I had initially been worried about this particular meeting. After spending 3 nights in Switzerland, I travelled back to the UK, spent 2.5 hours at Heathrow and then caught a flight to Finland, arriving well after midnight. Knowing that I would only have a few hours’ sleep in Helsinki before heading 100 km north to Lahti for the meeting, I was concerned that travel and tiredness might take their toll.
I needn’t have worried. Several participants had enjoyed a late night at Lahti’s famous summer retreat, and they were pleased I had made the extra effort to join them. As we drove up to the log cabin in the woods, I was reminded of my 4-H camping days back in West Virginia. Though I had spent childhood summers barefoot, I was surprised when asked to remove my shoes for a business meeting. But, when in Finland… So we added our shoes to the 9 or 10 pairs already by the front door and joined the others in a family-style sitting room.
If you haven’t kept up with the activity in the marketing technology space – acquisitions, product enhancements, "cloud" wars, et al., then I don’t blame you. The marketing technology landscape is complex, crowded, and confusing. To compete in the age of the customer, enterprises are quickly deploying technology to manage big data, execute contextual marketing, and orchestrate real-time customer interactions.
Whether you are a marketing technology vendor, buyer, or end user, this is an exciting time, and I am thrilled to join Forrester as a principal analyst on the Customer Insights team. I am based in London, and I will cover marketing technology along with my colleague Cory Munchbach. Together we will help Customer Insights (CI) Professionals as they navigate the digital marketing landscape and make marketing technology investment decisions. With a background that includes more than 25 years’ experience in marketing, customer analytics, product management, and product marketing, with both large and small vendors in the marketing technology sector, I am excited about my new role at Forrester and on the CI team.