What The Demise Of Flex Means For CI Pros

Rob Brosnan

Earlier today, November 12, Deepa Subramaniam posted on the Flex Team Blog:

Does Adobe recommend we use Flex or HTML5 for our enterprise application development?

In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development.

In the short term, vendors and marketing technologists using Flex for application development can continue without ripping and replacing their user interfaces. Adobe will donate the Flex SDK to an (as yet unnamed) foundation for future development, while still providing support for Flex and the Flash Builder development tool.

Photo by mugley - http://flic.kr/p/4XfysrHowever, Adobe’s clear emphasis on HTML5 – and lack of a recipient for the Flex SDK – create long-term problems for CI pros:

  1. Slowed marketing technology release cycles. Adobe’s announcement throws a wrench into the development cycles for vendors of enterprise marketing technologies that use Flex, such as IBM Coremetrics, SAP, SAS. At some point, vendors that use Flex will need to incorporate a migration from Flex into their development road maps, pulling resources from other product features.
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Wells Fargo's Statement Snafu, Or Why PIDM Isn't Just About Digital

Fatemeh Khatibloo

This week, some Wells Fargo customers in South Carolina and Florida got a nasty surprise. Turns out, a "malfunctioning printer" printed multiple customers' account information (including transactions and, in some cases, Social Security numbers) on the pages of other customers' statements. 

The number of customers affected hasn't been made public -- a real misstep in my opinion, and one which renders Wells Fargo's public apology rather hollow sounding. Remember: Transparency is a key factor in gaining consumer trust in the era of personal identity management.

Aside from the bank's public handling of the matter, though, there's another important issue. Too often, when organizations talk to us about security and privacy, they're focused on digital data. But the truth is, there is plenty of analog data that follows individuals around, from in-store transactions and personal trainer visits to, yup, mailed bank statements. It's not enough for firms to spend millions of dollars protecting consumers' digital footprints if they're not also thinking about both inbound and outbound uses of offline data. 

Does your organization have discipline and governance around the way offline data is captured, managed, and disseminated?

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Silk's Other CI Concern

Rob Brosnan

David Streitfeld at The New York Times' Bits blog comments on Representative Edward Markey's (D-MA) letter to Amazon. Streitfeld says:

But if you use the tablet to post reviews of Italian restaurants on Yelp, Amazon would merely collect that data, bundle it with the fact that a lot of customers in your community seemed to be favorably reviewing Italian restaurants, and then strike a deal with one restaurant to offer discounts, which it would e-mail to you. Some customers might feel tracked; others might not even notice.

David's example is certainly worthy of consideration. Building a database of targeted offers and triggered campaigns from aggregated browse behavior is one way for Amazon to extract value from Silk. It's clearly a striking example for privacy advocates, but it's not the whole story.

Aside from the Customer Intelligence advantages, Amazon's Silk browser also provides the retailer with competitive intelligence (the other CI?). Amazon can watch for products or product combinations purchased on competitor websites, then optimize its merchandise to match or beat those competitors. Besting other retailers doesn't require it to track individual Kindle Fire users or target them through seemingly creepy direct marketing. Instead it can continue to do what it does best -- optimizing its supply chain and catalog -- without appearing to overstep customers' privacy expectations.

The competitive issues raised by Silk are as critical as the individual privacy concerns. 

Are you a retailer who competes with Amazon? What should CI professionals do to combat Amazon's move?

Kick Out The Tills, CI Professionals

Rob Brosnan

Mike Brown, CIO of Lowe’s, in an interview with Bloomberg on the purchase of 42,000 iPhones as point of sale (POS) devices:

Forget about the competition, we are playing catch-up with the customer psyche.

CI professionals need to follow Brown’s lead. A substitution of tablets and smartphones for cash registers promises both to improve customer experience and to transform face-to-face customer interactions into a stream of behavioral and contextual data. The benefits of digitizing human channels through consumer devices include:

  • Adding clickstream analysis to human interactions. As sales associates interact with customers, their devices can relay clickstream data back to the company’s data warehouse. For example, Pfizer’s tablet program allows it to track doctors’ content consumption patterns during sales presentations. Using interaction management, firms can test real-time content variations to optimize the sales process.
  • Expanding customer data integration options. By using the phones for mobile POS, employees will pull in customer identity. Firms can also add new methods for data capture – such as Bump-style, near-field communications – into its consumer and enterprise apps. As sales associates transfer a shopping list to the customer’s phone, the device can capture and associate customer identifiers and contextual information with the interaction.
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Are You Ready For A World Of Consumer-Managed Data?

Fatemeh Khatibloo

It has been a few years since Forrester delved deeply into the issues surrounding consumer privacy, and in that time, an awful lot has changed:

  • Facebook Connect, Google ID, Yahoo Identity, and Sign In With Twitter have emerged as a whole new way of being recognized across a myriad of websites across the Net. As little as a decade ago, most adults online couldn’t have imagined the convenience of single sign-on.
  • At the same time, data capture methods have not only proliferated, they’ve become exceptionally sophisticated. Tactics like Flash-based cookies and deep packet sniffing surreptitiously collect behavioral data about online consumers, while loyalty and membership cards provide more insight into consumers’ purchasing habits at the line item level than ever before.
  • All that extra data is hard to protect without big changes to governance policies and technology stacks, and when data breaches happen, they're public and ugly.
  • Finally, legislators have forged ahead with regulations to protect consumer data. Europe's answer is the Data Protection Directive – a regulatory framework that governs the capture, management and use of consumer data, while in the US, congressional leaders, egged on by consumer advocacy groups, are introducing bills designed to limit data capture and to provide remediation in cases of data and security breach.
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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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