Amazon Silk Is Amazon's Secret CI Agent

Rob Brosnan

The new Amazon Silk promises to speed tablet web browsing. It also provides Amazon's core business with a secret weapon against other retailers. Amazon Silk is essentially a browser that, by default, routes all traffic through a proxy server. Amazon's back end consolidates multiple calls for images, libraries, and cookies into a single request. The proxy can even pre-fetch future page requests by users (think of search results pages).

Is Kindle Silk Amazon's 007?How does Amazon Silk provide a competitive advantage to Amazon? Each Kindle Fire device is registered with an individual who is known to and maintains an extensive purchase history with Amazon. Amazon Silk allows Amazon to collect the users' browse behavior beyond Amazon-owned web properties. Regardless of where customers make purchases and whether those products are digital or material, Amazon can use the data collected to its advantage.

Amazon's new layer of Customer Intelligence permits it to:

  • Improve customer recognition. Amazon can maintain customer identity without facing the problems of cookie deletion or Flash LSOs. Should users access Twitter or Facebook through the browser, Amazon will have access to social identity as well.
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Analytics Needs A "Creative" Makeover

Srividya Sridharan

Analytics and creativity are seldom used in the same sentence. The natural instinct is to delineate the two as left-brain and right-brain pursuits. Analytics and creative teams speak different languages, use different tools, and find inspiration in different places.

Customer Intelligence (CI) professionals are usually closer to the world of analytics. They capture, manage, analyze, and apply heaps of customer data using advanced analytical tools and techniques. But in order for them to step out of a perceived geeky image, CI professionals should think about how to add a dash of creativity into their roles.

Analytics made its way to the creative world especially with various testing tools, but has enough creativity made its way into analytical projects? How can analysts and CI pros add some creativity?

  • Ask the same questions, differently. Arriving at the hypothesis or questions to pursue when analyzing data can be an output of a creative brainstorm. Framing the question to ask of the data is as important as the analysis itself.
  • Summarize data in creative ways. New types of data are pushing the limits of what traditional data mining and analytical tools can do. This requires creative ways of uncovering relationships between seemingly unrelated entities.
  • Make the data sing. Data visualization as both a data-mining tool as well as a presentation method is fast becoming popular to communicate complex trends and results into a digestible format, especially when the audience is not analytically inclined.
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Yahoo's Potential Suitors Are A Motley Crew

Fatemeh Khatibloo

My Customer Intelligence colleagues and I, like many others, can't help but wonder how Carol Bartz's departure from Yahoo! is going to play out for the digital behemoth. Shar VanBoskirk's post last week summarizes Yahoo!'s current state, and I agree with her assessment that the company's assets are worth far more piecemeal than as a whole. As she points out, Yahoo!'s advertising capabilities are one of its greatest assets.

But from a CI perspective, so is its OpenID-based Yahoo! ID, which enables single sign-on (SSO) functionality for its more than 273mm global email-service users. Now, while a relative minority of those users actually take advantage of Yahoo! ID across the web today, the demand for SSO and federated identity is growing such that Yahoo!'s broad user base and consumer trust is already tremendously valuable. 

So, who are the "unusual suspects" that have the most interesting opportunity for acquiring Yahoo!'s personal services/communications/identity management business? 

  • Wal-Mart. Yep, you read it right. Wal-Mart, despite being the world's largest retailer, continues to lose digital market share to Amazon, and it clearly wants to change that. Last month, it restructured its online organization to better align with its brick-and-mortar presence and just this week announced plans to to buy "key assets" of mobile ad targeter OneRiot. Yahoo! ID would give Wal-Mart the single sign-on capability that it doesn't have today, with some nice benefits over Amazon's closed-ecosystem identity service. And Yahoo!'s user base is, demographically speaking, a slightly better fit for Wal-Mart than other major big-box retailers.
     
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On Marketing Technology, Castles, And Moats

Rob Brosnan

Over the weekend, an experience with Apple prompted me to think about marketing technology’s role in creating economic moats. According to Warren Buffet:

In days of old, a castle was protected by the moat that circled it. The wider the moat, the more easily a castle could be defended, as a wide moat made it very difficult for enemies to approach. A narrow moat did not offer much protection and allowed enemies easy access to the castle. To Buffett, the castle is the business and the moat is the competitive advantage the company has. He wants his managers to continually increase the size of the moats around their castles.

The moat around Bodlam Castle, a medieval castle built in 1385.

Apple’s retail presence is both a revenue engine and a cornerstone of its customer experience strategy. Retail pulls in average revenue of $10.8 million per store for Q3, 2011, generating the highest retail sales per square foot of all US retailers. Importantly, the stores guarantee the company a beachhead from which the company can educate consumers and resolve problems directly. For the quarter, 73.7 million people visited Apple stores.

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What Signal Does The Google-Motorola Marriage Send To Product Strategists?

Carlton Doty

It’s a couple of days after Google announced its intentions to jump headfirst into the hardware business. By now everyone — including my colleagues Charles Golvin and John McCarthy — have expressed their thoughts about what this means for Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and all of the Android-based smartphone manufacturers. This is not another one of those blog posts.

What I really want to highlight is something more profound, and more relevant to all of you out there who might classify your day job as “product strategy.” To you, the Google/Moto deal is just one signal — however faint — coming through the static noise of today’s M&As, IPOs, and new product launches. But if you tune in and listen carefully, two things become crystal clear:

  • The lines between entire industries are blurring. Google — and some of the other firms I mentioned above — are just high profile examples of companies that are diversifying their product portfolio, and the very industries in which they play. There are several instances of this over the past "digital decade." What's different now is the increased frequency of the occurrences.
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The Surprising Challenge Of CI

Rob Brosnan

Hello, everyone. As a new analyst on Forrester's Customer Intelligence team, I'm taking over coverage of enterprise marketing platforms. I'll range everywhere from cross-channel campaign management to interaction management to analytics and optimization tools. 

I'm thrilled to join Forrester. We live in a time of extraordinary change in the way we conduct marketing. Businesses succeed and fail on how they bring the Customer Intelligence role to bear. I have the enviable task of following Suresh Vittal — who's since taken over the leadership of the CI role — as well as Dave Frankland, Zach Hofer-Shall, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Srividya Sridharan, and Joe Stanhope. As an aside, if we meet up, be sure to ask me the story of how Joe lured me to Forrester.
 
Extraordinary times imply that extraordinary challenges lurk underneath. CI professionals face the test of integrating data into a holistic view of customers. Recently in my report "CI Teams: Blocking and Tackling Is Not Enough," I dug into why data integration is such an omnipresent issue. As you might expect, a number of factors -- the explosion of touch points, the staggering amounts of data generated, budget, and skills -- contribute to the problem.
 
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Are We Headed Toward A Cashless Society?

Carlton Doty

These are exciting—and challenging—times for anyone who is responsible for developing, managing, and innovating consumer products.  Why?  Because digital technology is disrupting everything—the way we communicate with each other; the way we access, store, and share information; the way we purchase and interact with the products and services we use every day; and yes—even the way in which we actually pay for those products and services.  Whether you like it or not, digital disruption is happening everywhere, it’s happening fast, and it’s accelerating.

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Revisiting Customer Lifetime Value

Srividya Sridharan

Relationship marketers love customer lifetime value (CLV) as a concept because it puts the customer at the core of the marketing investment decision and sneaks a peek into the future worth of the customer. But in reality, arriving at customer lifetime value is often a herculean task and the assortment of CLV approaches available doesn’t make the process any easier.

My latest research, titled “Navigating The Customer Lifetime Value Conundrum,” highlights key considerations for firms who plan to embark on the CLV journey. As a continuation of this research stream, I asked our Customer Intelligence community members what their experience with CLV was and a few interesting points emerged:

  • Inclusion of intangible value. At what point is it important to account for the intangible, non-transactional value that customers are generating especially through all the emerging channel interactions such as referrals, recommendations, likes, user-generated content, etc.? 
  • Blurry definitions of "best" customers. Traditionally, resources are channeled toward your best customers with positive net present value (NPV). But often there is conflicting choice between investing in high-value, low-usage customers and low-value, high-usage customers. As a result, defining your "best" or "worst" customer/segment is not as obvious as a positive or negative NPV.
  • Diversity of CLV users. CLV is not just the domain of marketing or customer-focused teams, but it touches other stakeholders in the organizations. How do non-marketing stakeholders such as finance teams in your organization view this metric? Is CLV as important to non-marketing stakeholders as it is to marketing?
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Unlikely Data Partnerships: A New Reality?

Srividya Sridharan

I was intrigued by the recent announcement that MasterCard and Brighter Planet were teaming up to mine carbon emission data based on corporate cardholder data. This announcement got me thinking about unlikely data partnerships across verticals to productize data and form mutually beneficial partnerships using data as the currency. 

But what’s really interesting is that it elevates the conversation of customer intelligence beyond better campaigns and ROI to the use of customer data for sustainability efforts — a relatively uncommon use case for customer intelligence. 

The concept of data sharing or data partnerships is not new — entire business models exist on making these services available to organizations for smarter targeting and remarketing. Retail data co-ops, online media audience aggregators, and data coalitions are just a few examples of these models. And MasterCard even sells its MasterCard Advisors solution to provide merchants with enhanced data and targeting capabilities.

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A New Pair Of Eyes On CI Services

Fatemeh Khatibloo

 

Dave Frankland is an analyst’s analyst: a critical and perceptive forward-thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of customer intelligence services and strategy. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he has taken over as our Research Director, with the mandate to oversee all research and ensure that we are as relevant and consistent as possible across the team.

Of course, that left some pretty sizable shoes to fill in our team’s research agenda. Now, maybe I’m a little TOO fond of a challenge, but I raised my hand and asked to be considered for the position.

I’m tremendously honored to announce that, effective immediately, I’ll be taking over Dave’s coverage of CI services (agencies, MSPs, data providers and consultants).

My first report in this new role will provide an assessment of alternate vendors to the recent Database MSP Wave. Then, keep an eye out for a forward-looking analysis of what we’re calling the “Personal Data Cloud.” Future reports will look at outsourcing versus insourcing, vendor selection processes, and the changing role of customer intelligence in traditionally non-CI-driven agencies.

I’m looking very forward to getting to know many of you better and to exploring the changing face of the services landscape. I invite you to engage with me via our Inquiry and/or Briefing teams and to track me down at some upcoming events:

  • Privacy Innovation Invention: May 19th – 20th (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Merkle CRM 2.0 Summit: June 6th – 8th (San Diego, CA)
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