2015 is upon us: in Forrester’s just-released “Predictions 2015: US B2C And B2B eCommerce Players Will Struggle To Keep Up With Customers” report, we predict a number of key issues will challenge B2C eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals in the coming year, while a number of new and exciting—but not pressing—topics will circulate. B2C eBusiness & channel strategy professionals ought to know which key issues to watch and which over-hyped trends to ignore.
What Will Happen: Flexible Fulfillment is the new term for omnichannel
I’ll be curious to hear if there is a business strategy update, but I don’t think we’ll have more insights on what “unbundling the big blue app” really means. I think one possible option is that social data and contextual identity will be the layer on top of Facebook’s new social conglomerate.
I personally will be looking more specifically for an update on mobile app installs. There's no doubt that Facebook has disrupted the app marketing space by becoming a key player in app discovery — which is the key driver behind its mobile ad revenues.
A growing and significant part of this business comes from direct marketers looking to drive app installs, primarily from gaming and other businesses that are increasingly dependent on mobile, such as travel and retail companies. These players know the lifetime value of their apps and have calculated how much they can spend to drive each app download and still have a positive return on investment (ROI). But marketers in more-traditional businesses or who are pursuing other marketing goals should pay close attention to the unique attributes of their mobile social users and optimize their social strategies to engage them.
Messaging apps have the potential either to become digital platforms or to significantly enhance the power of current platforms because they so clearly deliver the three things that determine digital platform power: frequent interactions, emotional connection, and convenience. WeChat is for example already morphing into a digital platform offering, thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent.
While today’s opportunities are limited by consumers’ reluctance to engage with brands on such intimate channels and by immature marketing tools, it is definitely time for marketers to experiment and to anticipate the next steps.
Indeed, you’ve surely heard of the second-largest acquisition in tech history, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion. However, you may not have heard of KakaoTalk, Kik, Line, Secret, Snapchat, Tango, Viber, or Whisper.
These messaging apps are the new face of social in a mobile context.
Contrary to social media that are generally public broadcast mechanisms that facilitate one-to-many communications, a messaging app is a typically private, one-to-one or one-to-few communication and media tool optimized for mobile. Such smartphone apps can access your address book, bypassing the need to rebuild your social graph on a new service. As Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat, puts it, “We no longer capture the real world and recreate it online – we simply live and communicate at the same time.”
Ever since Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted last October that young teens were visiting the site slightly less frequently, most have accepted as fact that young people are fleeing Facebook en masse. Ivy League researchers have forecast that the service will be all but dead by 2017; President Obama recently claimed that young people “don’t use Facebook anymore”; and when comScore recently reported that fewer college students were using Facebook, media outlets ran stories on the “social platforms college kids now prefer.”
But if you take a closer look at the data it tells a very different story. Sure, many data sources show that Facebook’s usage among young people has declined slightly — but the drops are small, and the huge majority of this audience still uses the site. For instance, that comScore report only found a three-percentage-point drop in college-aged adults’ Facebook usage and reported that 89% of this audience still used Facebook — far more than used any other social site.
To investigate teens’ social behaviors further, we recently asked 4,517 US online youth (aged 12 to 17) not just whether they use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr — but if they use those sites “about once a day,” “at least a few times each day,” or even if they were on any of the sites “all the time.”
By now, you've surely heard of the second-largest acquisition in tech history, with Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion.
However, you may be less familiar with other messaging apps like LINE, KakaoTalk, KIK, Nimbuzz, SnapChat, Vibes, Whisper, and many others.
If you think messaging apps are just a free way to communicate, you’re missing their potential: They are Mobile’s Trojan horse, as explained by my colleague Julie Ask here.
Messaging apps are mushrooming.They illustrate perfectly the age of the customer, which Forrester defines as a new business era where your customers are now empowered through social, mobile, and other technologies giving them the power to disrupt your business. Why? Because they are mastering the four key market imperatives Forrester has identified as critical to differentiate in the age of the customer:
■ Transforming the customer experience over SMS and other messaging tools. Messaging apps offer differentiated and seamless experiences over SMS and other mobile communication tools. For example, they offer advanced group messaging functionalities, multimedia features, constant innovation, and ability to opt-in or follow brands at consumers’ convenience. They are now morphing into marketing platforms redefining social media.
Facebook, the social media giant that has already made a large dent in the mobile ad ecosystem, today showed it has no plans to stop the momentum: Welcome, Audience Network.
Before today, there were already several factors working in Facebook’s favor: its reach among avid social users, its engaged and captive audience, and its trove of affinity data, which my colleague Nate Elliott talks more about in his blog post here.
After its Audience Network announcement today, Facebook is breaking the application of its tools and its data out of its own silo, and this could benefit several players:
Other developers and publishers could make more money by offering Facebook data-infused mobile ads.
Advertisers can dip into Facebook’s rich affinity data to target their ads across other mobile properties.
And of course, Facebook itself just extended its potential revenue base and faces a new competitive set with the likes of Google AdMob and MIllennialMedia.
It’s been clear for a while now that the greatest value of social media to marketers won’t come from placing ads on social sites — it’ll come from using social data to improve the ads marketers place everywhere else. We call this idea the database of affinity, and we believe it could be the Holy Grail for more-effective brand marketing. For nearly a year, Google has helped marketers use the database of affinity to improve the targeting of their online display ads. And today Facebook has finally started to build the database of affinity that has always been its birthright, launching a mobile ad network.
This move is fantastic, if long overdue, news for marketers. It has the potential to improve the performance of all mobile advertising. And if Facebook grows its ad targeting business into other channels and works to better analyze and utilize its data (something it’s lagged at in the past), it could revolutionize brand advertising.
[2015 UPDATE: Yes, Instagram is still the king of socail engagement. But top brands' Instagram engagement rates fell dramatically in 2015. Read more here.]
Recently, Forrester studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks and confirmed what marketers have long suspected: People don’t engage with branded social content very often.
On six of the seven social networks, the brands we studied achieved an engagement rate of less than 0.1%. For every 1 million Facebook fans those brands had collected, each of their posts received only about 700 likes, comments, and shares. On Twitter, the ratio was about 300 interactions per 1 million followers.
But one social network absolutely blew the others away when it came to delivering engagement: Instagram. Our study found that top brands’ Instagram posts generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. That means Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.
What does this higher engagement rate look like in practice? Last month, Red Bull posted a video of a unique snowboarding half-pipe on both Facebook and Instagram. A few days later, we noted that the brand’s 43 million Facebook fans had liked the video just 2,600 times (a 0.006% likes-per-fan rate), while its 1.2 million Instagram followers had liked the video more than 36,000 times (a 3% likes-per-follower rate).
A lot of people have been talking about Facebook’s new Nearby Friends feature for their mobile app, which gives users the ability to see which friends are nearby. But less discussed, and perhaps just as significant, is another change — to a more contextually-relevant Facebook profile.
In the past, when you checked out other users’ profiles, you would see the same static information including their profile photo and links to their friends and “about” pages. There were two problems with this. First, the information is rarely updated, so it becomes stale. Second, if you don’t know the person, it takes a bit of digging through their pages to find out if you know them or have anything in common.
The Facebook iPhone app’s recent update addresses these concerns by taking a contextual approach. Specifically, it presents more personalized and dynamic information, such as whether you and this person share any mutual friends, whether you happen to live in the same city, and what the friend has been up to recently. The app also prioritizes this information, so it’s one of the first things you see after you click on a user’s profile.
In fact, we’ve seen this trend in mobile apps — the best apps are moving away from static web-like experiences and are delivering more personal, relevant content, fast. In my report, "The Best And Worst Of Mobile User Experience," I found that leading mobile user experiences share common attributes that separate them from the pack. These leading experiences:
The vast majority of Facebook and Twitter usage is coming from mobile devices, and both companies generate a significant proportion of their revenues via mobile ads (53% for Facebook and more than 70% for Twitter end Q4 2013).
Facebook is splitting into a collection of apps (Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Paper, etc…) and likely to announce a mobile ad network at its F8 developer conference in San Francisco in a couple of days. While failing brand marketers, according to my colleague Nate Elliott, Facebook is increasingly powerful at driving app installs for gaming companies and performance-based marketers who have a clear mobile app business model.