I swear I've been here before. Not here, as in here at CES, where I spent the week checking my product assumptions against the actual offerings arrayed on the showfloor. But here, as in at a crucial moment in time when a single industry rushes to push a massively expensive, relatively unnecessary technology on unsuspecting consumers. That's the case with Ultra HD at CES 2013. Formerly known as 4k TV (because of the rough number of horizontal pixels employed in the technology) and now already truncated to UHD by company reps on the floor and in the hallways, Ultra HD is supposed to be the next thing every consumer will want.
It ain't gonna happen. The reasons evoke a ready comparison to 3DTV. And indeed, I have been here before, back at CES 2010 where I wrote a piece called 3DTV at CES: Poking Holes in the Hype. That year, some industry thinkers had conducted a survey and concluded that as many as 5 million consumers were ready to jump into 3D with both feet while opening their big, fat wallets. So I wrote the obligatory post that said, pointedly, no.
The comparison between 3D and Ultra HD is obvious. They were both too expensive at introduction (Ultra HD much more so than even 3D); they both suffered from a dearth of content availability; they both required a complete retooling of the equipment used by video production teams and film studios; and they both landed at a time when consumers were pretty happy with the awesomely large, cheap TV screens they already had.
I'll be first to agree that "disruption" is an overused word. I hear it all the time -- companies pitching me their new business idea describe how they're going to disrupt this or disrupt that. And here at CES 2013, I see and hear the word disruption everywhere I turn. Sometimes these companies really mean disruption. But often, they just mean that they're going to use technology to compete aggressively. Instead of simply saying "compete," they invoke the moral authority of Clayton Christensen and say they intend to "disrupt" the rest of the competitive field.
My concern with the overuse of the word disruption is not just that it waters down the power of the ideas behind disruption. It's that a muddy understanding of disruption will stop us from comprehending just how powerful digital disruption will be. Because the addition of digital to the word disruption does not merely enhance it, it accelerates it, making digital disruption orders of magnitude more powerful, a case I made in late 2011 and a case that has only strengthened since.
I only just recently started watching Mad Men — a shock to many of my marketing peers and to regular folks who now think I’ve been living under a rock for the past five-plus years. I’ll save my thoughts on the show for another time, but what strikes me at least once during each episode is how much everything (tactics) and nothing (strategy) have changed. Similar fundamental challenges weigh on Sterling Cooper’s clients’ minds and on our CMO clients’ minds today: How do we connect with our consumers in a way that differentiates us from the competition? While Don Draper was limited to print and TV, thanks to digital platforms and tools, today’s CMOs have an almost-infinite number of options with which to build relationships with consumers.
2013 is the year that digital takes on a much more significant role in marketing and business strategies at business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, and CMOs will be responsible for shepherding the change. 2013 is the year that CMOs will leverage digital tools to drive innovation of new compelling brand experiences — not as add-ons or enhancements but as integral elements of the brand’s messages, actions, and products that will differentiate your offering.
B2C CMOs, your 2013 resolutions should be to:
Embrace digital disruption. Digital disruption has remarkable strength. It's able to bulldoze traditional sources of competitive advantage faster, with greater power, at less cost than any force that came before it — and no business is immune. CMOs must make a strategic commitment to innovation and stop thinking about digital as another media channel. Digital is everywhere and should elevate marketing and business priorities for consumer benefit.
That’s what one front office development leader who attended our Digital Disruption Summits and Forums in London and Orlando told us after hearing stories of how to survive and thrive in this age of constant consumer-led, software-fueled digital disruption.
And this front office development leader—whose scope ran the gamut from CRM and customer service to Web and mobile apps—wasn’t alone. In this age of digital disruption, where empowered customers and employees demand new levels of engagement with your firm, what mightyoube doing wrong?
If you’re not reaching out to stakeholders in your marketing and product development organizations, you’re doing it wrong.
Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. There’s an explosion of communication channels that customers use—voice, digital channels like email and chat, and social channels like Facebook and Twitter. There’s also an explosion of touchpoints, like smartphones, tablets, and self-service kiosks. Customers expect efficient, consistent, personalized service experiences across these channels and touchpoints.
There’s no denying that mastering the service experience is hard to do. Yet focusing on leveraging digital channels is one way customer service leaders can move the needle on customer experiences.
This week Wal-Mart announced that it would put significant weight behind the new Boxee TV box, a $99 set-top box that competes with the market-leading Apple TV and the runner-up Roku boxes. Wal-Mart also sells the Apple TV and Roku devices, so it might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Because Wal-Mart is going to promote Boxee TV with in-store displays and outbound marketing support. Why? Because in addition to the regular apps like Hulu, Netflix, and the rest, Boxee gives Wal-Mart customers three things they can't get from Apple or Roku:
Regular TV shows from local broadcasters. Boxee's new box has a digital tuner that lets you tune to digital signals from ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Univision through either an over-the-air antenna or via ClearQAM.
Unlimited DVR. Not only will Boxee let you watch these channels, it is offering unlimited cloud DVR for $9.99 a month (in only the top eight markets for now) to record any shows from those networks, without managing a hard drive or paying extra if you want to store hours and hours of video.
Multidevice viewing. This is the real coup for Boxee. Because its DVR is in the cloud, it can send your recorded content to any device you log in to -- whether it's in your home or in your hands while traveling for business.
This week the news broke that Newsweek, one of the most recognized magazine brands in the world, will cease publishing its print edition after nearly 80 years and go all digital in 2013. The news got quite a bit of attention globally — it even made it into the printed edition of a Dutch newspaper. Of course, this didn’t come as a complete surprise, and Forrester has published enough about digital disruption and the media meltdown to know that newspapers and magazines have to change their strategy.
But the news got me wondering to what extent consumers use their digital devices for media consumption at this moment. Forrester’s North American Technographics® Media And Advertising Online Benchmark Survey, Q3 2012 (US) shows that about one-fifth of US online adults consume magazine content digitally, meaning they visit magazine websites or read digital publications.
This is lower than for newspapers, where about one-third of the US online population reads newspapers digitally — and 14% digital only (compared with 5% for magazines). Those who read digital magazines only are far more likely to be male, the average age skews younger than 35 years old, and only one-quarter of them regularly spend money on magazines.
It's now a year later and a lot has happened. Digital Disruption will soon be available as a hardback book (also as an eBook, natch). You can pre-order a copy now at Forr.com/DDbook. To complete the book I had to get far outside of my comfort zone -- I work with media companies and consumer product companies primarily, but to prove that digital disruption is a fundamental change in the way we all do business, I had to interview people in the pharmaceutical industry, the military camouflage industry, and I even recently spoke to the CIO of a cement manufacturer! And to my pleasant surprise, they were every bit as digitally disruptive as their counterparts in the consumer-facing enterprises that we think of when we imagine digital disruption.
One of the main reasons every company can be and eventually must be a digital disruptor is the rise of digital platforms. These platforms are founded on a set of devices, wrapped together with software experiences that identify each customer individually, and are open to app contributions from thousands of partners. The platform owners that matter today are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
Earlier this week I caught up with Discover’s Mike Boush to talk about his keynote at the upcoming eBusiness Forum, where he’ll explore innovations in eBusiness at Discover. Here’s a snippet of our conversation, and a sneak peak of Mike’s session at the event:
Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the last 12 months that you're most excited about?
A: I love what we're doing with partnerships online. It's creating a whole lot of value for customers and, frankly, getting us out of the "must be built at Discover" mentality. It started with an integration with PayPal in order to deliver peer-to-peer payment services. The program leverages PayPal’s huge delivery platform, and customers love it. Then we introduced an integration with Amazon that lets customers pay for their Amazon.com purchases with the cash they earned through our Cashback Bonus rewards program. This really highlights the difference between competitors' "points" programs and our straightforward cash, and the transparency shows just how great our program is. And recently, Google announced our integration of Discover card enrollment into the Google Wallet from our website, which is convenient for customers and helps position us in the mobile payments space. These integrations are just a sample of what we've done, but they become powerful illustration of what we can do when we team up and innovate with other great companies.
Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?
I had the chance to catch up with Bert DuMars, VP of Digital Marketing & eCommerce at Newell Rubbermaid, in advance of his keynote later this month at the eBusiness Forum. I spoke with Bert about the impact of digital channels on the overall shopping experience, and how Newell Rubbermaid is charting a course for profitable eCommerce growth. Here are some of his thoughts.
Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the past 12 months that you're most excited about?