As many of you know, the customer insights practice at Forrester traditionally focuses on the collection, management, analysis, and use of customer data to business practices. Over the past few years, I've been writing research about the changing face of the "collection" and "use" parts of that equation -- that is, how privacy and personal identity and data management tools will change marketers' access to consumer data, and how they're allowed to use the information they do have. Now I'm taking this research a step further.
I've just started examining the history and future of consumer-driven market shifts, and would love to interview you if you have a position on this, theoretically or practically.
Industry analysts know that major M&A deals, product announcement, and organizational changes can come at any time. But it still surprises us a little when a major player like Oracle announces a significantacquisition just days before Christmas. At any rate, Santa has come early for both Mr. Ellison and the Datalogix team this year.
We've just published a Quick Take on our perceptions of the deal, which holds a lot of promise. Our biggest concern? Realizing that promise requires some serious integration work, and so far, Oracle hasn't proven that it's especially capable of integrating the stack it's acquired for the Marketing Cloud offering. We also worry that Oracle's Data Cloud -- where Datalogix will sit -- is heading directly for a major privacy warzone. Whether Oracle is ready for that battle remains to be seen.
But the bigger picture is this: the Datalogix and Bluekai acquisitions, along with many others of the past year -- including Conversant by Epsilon, LiveRamp by Acxiom, and Adometry by Google -- are evidence of a fast-consolidating marketing and advertising technology landscape. 2015 will doubtless bring more M&A activity in this space, with a likely run on smaller technology and data vendors that have mostly been flying under the radar. What this race for the ultimate "marketing cloud" will mean to CI pros remains to be seen, but you should certainly anticipate plenty of shakeups in your vendor relationships over the next 18 months.
The tide is turning on privacy. Since the earliest days of the World Wide Web, there has been an increasing sense that the Internet would effectively kill privacy – and in the wake of the NSA PRISM program revelations, that sentiment was stronger than ever. However, by using our Forrester’s Technographics 360 methodology, which blends multiple qualitative and quantitative data sources, we found that attitudes on privacy are evolving: Consumers are beginning to shift from a state of apathy and resignation to caution and empowerment.
By now, most of you will have read or seen multiple media stories about Facebook's recently published mood manipulation study. There's a lot of debate about the ethical implications of the research, and several European data protection agencies have already announced investigations into whether Facebook violated local privacy laws with the study.
But we think the questions for marketers go deeper: how will this research, and user response to it, affect how brands are able to engage with their customers on Facebook? My colleague Nate Elliott and I have just published a Quick Take on the subject. Our high-level assertions:
While Facebook’s study crosses ethical lines, the data use is likely legitimate. Consumers are understandably outraged by why they perceive as an abuse of their postings. But Facebook’s Data Use Policy explicitly allows the firm to use data for internal research purposes. Still, the potential for users to abandon Facebook is real.
Facebook has novel data to analyze, and long term, that could change marketing practices significantly. The kinds of data that Facebook is starting to exploit are highly unique. It could actually combine evergreen affinities with contextually specific emotional states to change how brands buy media and measure performance.
But the short term implications may cut its opportunities off at the knees. If Facebook, with all of its research and experimentation, causes users to feel like lab rats, it’s possible that they will leave the site in droves. That outcome could severely limit brand reach — and that could signal the end of Facebook’s marketing customers, especially given today’s already reduced reach.
Big data this, big data that. Hardly a day goes by when we're not bombarded with messages about the big data platforms and technologies that will solve all our marketing problems. Let's be honest though: these tools and technologies alone simply won’t solve the big data challenge. But the effect of all that media and market hype? A lot of confusion and mistrust on the part of marketing leaders about what big data really is, what it can do, and how it should be incorporated into business strategy. And that's holding a lot of firms back from maximizing the power of the data at their disposal.
By now you're asking yourself how anything I've said so far is different or unique. Here it is: "big data" isn't about exabytes or petabytes. It's not about velocity. It's not a project or Hadoop or any other single thing. Big data is a journey that every company must take to close the gap between the data that's available to them, and the business insights they're deriving from that data. This is a definition that business and technology leaders alike can understand and use to better win, serve, and retain customers.
My colleague, Brian Hopkins, and I have just published a pair of reports -- researched and written in parallel -- to help our marketing and technology management clients work together to tackle the opportunities and challenges of big data. Here are a few of the most interesting "a-ha" moments of the research:
On May 14, Acxiomannounced its intention to acquire LiveRamp, a "data onboarding service," to the tune of $310 million in cash. Several Forrester analysts (Tina Moffett, Susan Bidel, Sri Sridharan, and I) cover these two firms, and what follows is our collective thinking on the impending acquisition after having been briefed by Acxiom's leadership on the matter.
We've been talking about Adaptive Intelligence (AI) for a while now. As a refresher, AI is is the real-time, multidirectional sharing of data to derive contextually appropriate, authoritative knowledge that helps maximize business value.
Increasingly in inquiries, workshops, FLB sessions, and advisories, we hear from our customer insights (CI) clients that developing the capabilities required for adaptive intelligence would actually help them solve a lot of other problems, too. For example:
A systematic data innovation approach encourages knowledge sharing throughout the organization, reduces data acquisition redundancies, and brings energy and creativity to the CI practice.
A good handle on data origin kickstarts your marketing organization's big data process by providing a well-audited foundation to build upon.
Better data governance and data controls improve your privacy and security practices by ensuring cross-functional adoption of the same set of standards and processes.
Better data structure puts more data in the hands of analysts and decision-makers, in the moment and within the systems of need (eg, campaign management tools, content management systems, customer service portals, and more).
More data interoperability enables channel-agnostic customer recognition, and the ability to ingest novel forms of data -- like preference, wearables data, and many more -- that can vastly improve your ability to deliver great customer experiences.
This morning, as I was writing this blog post, I got an email from one of my colleagues, saying "Is it weird that since Google bought Nest, I no longer want one?" Her sentiment isn't that unusual because, as it turns out, plenty of people feel like Google + Nest = HAL. (It's hard to miss the resemblance)
My colleague Frank Gillett just published a post outlining a collection of ten key thoughts about the acquisition. As the privacy-identity-personal data wonk advising Forrester's marketing strategy clients, I thought I'd drill down on some of the more salient points for those issues.
As 2013 comes to a close, it's clear to me that much of the rhetoric about privacy's death was not only premature but downright wrong. Just in this past week, there have been several events that point to how very alive and critically important the topic of privacy is:
The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released a report (in advance of a public hearing) about the practices of the data brokerage industry, and how they impact consumers. The report claims that "data brokers operate behind a veil of secrecy, subject to limited statutory consumer protections." This certainly portends the possibility of new legislation being introduced by the committee in 2014.
US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the bulk collection of millions of Americans' call records likely violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. While conflating surveillance with marketing privacy is a dangerous thing, I suspect that this ruling will draw further attention to the volume, scale, and methods of data collection, irrespective of who's doing the collecting.
Yesterday, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill published an essay on AdAge.com that calls on data brokers to join -- or, rather, establish -- an initiative called "Reclaim Your Name." The goal of the program would be to provide a single portal where consumers could see what data the industry has collected about them, provide options to opt in and out, and to correct data that might be inaccurate.
While the commissioner's article is a bit heavy on the "big data" rhetoric, her point is well taken: We have entered an era where the volume of data that individuals make available about themselves -- often inadvertently -- is increasing daily. Unfortunately, guidelines for how marketers and the larger data industry collect and use personal data are in short supply. This conflict is one of the major challenges that our industry faces in the coming decade: How can brands excel in the age of the customer if they're constantly under scrutiny about their privacy and data practices?
Acxiom, one of the world's largest data brokers, recently launched its own version of the kind of portal Commissioner Brill calls for. AboutTheData.com lets individuals see a subset of the data Acxiom knows about them, provides correction and opt-out opportunities, and aims to provide consumers with education about the data industry as a whole.