SaaS vendors must collect customer insights for innovation and compliance.
As of the end of last year, about 30% of companies from our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011, were using some software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution; that number will grow to 45% by the end of 2012 and 60% by the end of 2013. The public cloud market for SaaS is the biggest and fastest-growing of all of the cloud markets ($33 billion in 2012, growing to $78 billion by the end of 2015).
However, most of this growth is based on the cannibalization of the on-premises software market; software companies need to build their cloud strategy or risk getting stuck in the much slower-growing traditional application market and falling behind the competition. This is no easy task, however. Implementing a cloud strategy involves a lot of changes for a software company in terms of products, processes, and people.
A successful SaaS strategy requires an open architecture (note: multitenancy is not a prerequisite for a SaaS solution from a definition point of view but is highly recommended for vendors for better scale) and a flexible business model that includes the appropriate sales incentive structure that will bring the momentum to the street. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight the challenge that software vendors need to solve for sustainable growth in the SaaS market: maintaining and increasing customer insights.
Before the clouds, webs, and distributed networks people had to create their own spaghetti of logic inside a single building using machinery that looked like props from Doctor Who. Spurred by the need to crack the ‘Enigma’ naval communication codes during the Second World War Alan Turing developed an electromechanical device called the Bombe which played a major part in defusing the war. 2012 is the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Turing and he is rightly considered to be the father of computer science and Artificial Intelligence. Turing had both a wonderful and terrible time of it and his life story is well worth a wiki.
The British genius didn’t just advance computer science using valves and wires. He is almost as famous for his thought experiments concerning how we may build machines and computers that can engage in intelligent discourse with humans. Could machine responses fool us into thinking that they were sourced from a human? To answer this question Turing developed a methodology to test the validity of the machine generated responses, fans of Science Fiction are likely to recognize this as the inspiration behind the ‘Voight-Kampff’ test administered by Deckard in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner.’
I’ve been on the CI team for a few years in a supporting role and, more recently, working behind the scenes with Suresh Vittal to drive our research around loyalty. I’m excited to announce that, going forward, I will be the analyst leading our coverage of the technologies, services, and analytics that support customer loyalty.
My first report in this new role will provide best practices on building a world-class loyalty program. Then keep an eye out for an analysis of existing and emerging loyalty program features. Future research will dive into topics that include reward design, revenue models for loyalty programs, the future of loyalty, and more Wave evaluations of the loyalty vendor ecosystem.
I am looking forward to getting to know many of you better and following the evolution of this exciting space. Whether you have insights to share, questions to ask, or loyalty technology and services that you want to tell me about, I want to hear from you! Please engage with me via our Inquiry and/or Briefing teams, or track me down at Forrester’s upcoming Customer Intelligence Forum (April 18-19 in Los Angeles).
Last week, I ran into an infographic on Ad Age about The People of Walmart. It compares the demographics of Walmart, Kmart, Kohl’s, and Target shoppers: for example, age, sex, income, and region of the customers. It shows that more women than men shop at Walmart, and that their audience is quite equally spread across age as well as income. Recently, Forrester conducted a survey where we gained insights on customers of retailers like Walmart. We found that while it’s great to examine the demographics of shoppers, it’s much more powerful (and actionable) to look at other insights about these retailers’ customer base, like marketing preferences, spend levels, and brand consideration.
Below you'll find some of the results from this Forrester study. You'll see that the average US online adult who shops at Walmart spent about $848 on average in the past year, but that only about half are likely to recommend the retail giant to a friend or family member. When these results are compared to other retailers, and by demographic, you create real insights.
I’d love to hear from you: How do you target your customers? Are there any behavioral and attitudinal variables that have been very helpful in defining your target segments?
Companies adopt advanced analytics tools and techniques to convert data into intelligence and drive key customer-facing business decisions. We see that customer intelligence (CI) professionals involved in customer analytics broadly perform three activities:
Generate analytics: Create and produce analytical insights using analytical tools and technologies.
Apply analytics: Choose the appropriate analytical methodology for the business problem and apply it to the context of the customer lifecycle.
Activate analytics: Use analytical output and insights to optimize customer experiences and to drive customer growth, share of wallet, retention, and lifetime value.
In a recent report, my colleague Robert Brosnan correctly spotlights that marketers require ever more technology to capture, integrate, analyze, and apply customer data to marketing programs. Indeed, the technology portfolio that marketing leaders must understand and manage is exploding. Marketers typically have a portfolio of technology assets to support marketing planning, marketing asset management, campaign management, segmentation, and predicative modeling. And most marketers work with online marketing tools for email, mobile, social, and web analytics.
Rob recommends that marketers establish an enterprisewide marketing technology office (MTO) to ease and take advantage of technology development. The office, working through a chief marketing technology strategist, sets marketing technology strategy, makes the business case for embedding new technology within marketing programs, and manages technology-related partnerships. The marketing technology strategy should summarize the road map for how you plan to employ the technologies necessary to understand and engage more deeply with your target customers.
Forrester defines the marketing technology road map as:
A plan that matches short-term and long-term marketing goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals.
So how do you formulate the marketing technology strategy and road map?
Cross-channel campaign management (CCCM) tools face mounting pressure to evolve in the face of continuous, interactive, customer-led dialogue. CCCM capabilities have matured dramatically, but marketers often ask, “Are the applications resilient enough to meet the massive challenges marketing organizations face today?”
Forrester clients can see how much progress vendors have made in “The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management, Q1 2012”. We identified, researched, and scored 12 products from 11 providers: Alterian, Aprimo, ExactTarget, IBM, Infor, Neolane, Oracle, Pitney Bowes, Responsys, SAP, and SAS. Our approach consisted of an 81-criteria evaluation; reference calls and online surveys of 156 companies; executive briefings; and product demonstrations.
We found that marketers need CCCM applications to:
Manage a complex array of marketing processes. The campaign design process alone is elaborate – and happily vendors provide strong, yet simple, design tools. Yet CCCM tools also aid marketers in planning (budgeting, spend management, and calendaring), analysis, tactical execution, and reporting.
Develop more strengths in digital and emerging media. Although most vendors have extended their applications, many client references told us that vendors need to clarify their approaches to social, local, and mobile applications, and how real-time decisioning can be applied beyond offer management.
Rarely do moments like this occur. Last week, while watching the evening news (yes, I still watch news), I was horrified by the continued coverage of the cruise ship disaster in Italy. But, while watching the coverage, I was wading through my mail and opened a direct mail piece (also a rare event) that I had just received. To my horror, I found an offer from American Express to sign up for the Costa Concordia cruise. Worse still, it offered to “immerse” me in a truly European experience. To make things even worse, notice the typo in the headline?
While marketers strive to achieve messaging relevance that would make you stop what you’re doing and take notice, this execution in particular was a case of bad timing and lack of foresight into the implications of marketing campaigns already in flight.
What lessons does this highlight for customer intelligence (CI)?
Agility. In our research, we find that direct mail is one of the top channels that CI professionals favor over other channels. Despite CI’s heavy use of direct mail, this faux pas no doubt occurred because of the cycle time between the cruise ship disaster and the direct mail drop.
CI Pros: Speed up CI processes to provide greater organizational value. Apply principles of agile development to CI, especially to channels that are not inherently real-time, such as direct mail in this case.
ExactTarget filed an S-1 last Wednesday, November 23, the first step towards an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of March, 2012.1 The company grew substantially over the past several years and is tracking a 55% growth rate in 2011. ExactTarget now services about 4,600 direct clients and reports $148 million in revenue through September 30, 2011. Congratulations to Scott Dorsey and his team for guiding the company to this point.
How will ExactTarget's IPO benefit CI Pros? The IPO can:
Provide additional capital for research and development. The funds ExactTarget will raise through the IPO will help transform the company from an email service provider (ESP) into a full-fledged marketing technology platform. Increased R&D will allow the company to evolve through organic development and acquisitions. Both moves will help it to fill out its cross-channel campaign management and Customer Intelligence offerings. CI Professionals at mid-to-large enterprises should expect to see the company move more aggressively to offer enhanced enterprise marketing capabilities.
Enhance attractiveness to partners. ExactTarget's IMH has yet to catch on with heavy hitters in analytics, offline channel management, and marketing resource or operations management.2 The quarterly and annual disclosure requirements on ExactTarget could help clarify the company's plans to potential partners and assuage concerns about future competition. Stronger partnerships will lead to additional IMH applications for CI Pros.
Forrester believes that we have entered the age of the customer — an age in which customer obsession matters more than any other strategic imperative, requiring firms to focus their strategy, energy, and budget on processes that enhance knowledge of, and engagement with, customers.
It sounds straightforward, right? Which of us doesn’t wish to become more customer-centric? Yet we see few executive teams that treat customer understanding and intelligence as a strategic imperative. Don’t believe me? Look at the agenda or the minutes from your last several executive team meetings or board meetings. How much time was devoted to understanding customers better or to leveraging that customer knowledge in new ways to drive business success?
Our research shows that fewer than fifteen percent of firms operate at a strategic level of Customer Intelligence. These are the firms that have turned customer knowledge into a corporate asset. The vast majority of them drive improvements in customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction, revenue, profitability, and customer value. And they apply CI broadly within the business. Ninety-five percent of strategic intelligence firms use CI to drive corporate strategy, versus 30% of those we categorize as functionally intelligent. And 87% of strategic intelligence firms use CI to drive business operations, versus 19% of those at the functional intelligence level.
But before you switch off and tell me this is someone else’s job, be aware of the role of executive management. Strategically intelligent firms are far more likely to have a senior-level sponsor or champion: 46% of them strongly agree that their company has a C-level evangelist or champion for Customer Intelligence, versus 20% of marketing intelligence firms and 7% of functional intelligence firms.