This is a roll-up of all Forrester blogs written for Marketing & Strategy Professionals. Role-specific blogs are listed below. Visit Forrester.com to learn how we make Marketing & Strategy Professionals successful every day.
Earlier this year, we introduced the Database of Affinity: a catalogue of people's tastes and preferences, collected by observing their social behaviors, that could be the Holy Grail for more-accurate brand advertising. And since then two of the companies we featured in our research -- Facebook and Google -- have been working hard to realize this vision:
In June, Google introduced Affinity Segments -- a tool that allows marketers to target audiences based on the products and categories for which they've expressed preferences. We think Google has room to add more and broader affinity data to these segments, and to do richer analysis on that data. But Affinity Segments blends multiple signals into a single targeting tool -- which makes this an important step forward from the simplistic affinity targeting most social sites now offer.
More recently, Facebook built a team to analyze its affinity data. MIT Technology Review reports that Facebook has assigned eight people to its 'AI' team. Their goal? To address one of the key shortcomings we'd identified in Facebook's business: its inability to bring meaning to its data. It's always been clear that Facebook has one of the largest collections of affinity data online; we hope this move will help the company better leverage that data on behalf of marketers.
Watching Amazon.com cut the prices of last year’s Kindle Fire devices shortly after they debuted, you may have concluded that Amazon’s tablets weren’t performing well. You may have further speculated, as I did earlier this year, that maybe Amazon didn’t need to commit to the tablet strategy. After all, Amazon has a great relationship with its customers whether they’re on PCs, mobile devices, or iPads. You (and I) would be wrong. Today Amazon doubled down on a tablet strategy, announcing three new devices for sale later this year. A new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD (starting at $139), a 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $229), and an ultra-skinny 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX (from $379). In one fell swoop, Amazon:
Commits to tablets as a way of committing to customers. Yes, tens of millions of people already have iPads, but another 40 million people in the US will get their first tablet between now and the end of 2016. And chances are very, very good that Amazon has a credit card on file with most all of them.
In just a few short days — six, to be precise — the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate will kick in to high gear as the doors swing wide into the public exchanges for open enrollment. And if Americans were only dimly aware that healthcare reform was indeed happening, a lot more are paying attention now, thanks to splashy efforts to hold the stop-gap spending bill hostage to language de-funding the ACA. Further fueling awareness is all the ongoing news about employers that will now no longer cover spouses eligible for insurance through their own employers, and large group employers like Walgreens that will push employees to a private exchange, essentially getting out of the business of health insurance.
So, if there’s one word that describes the emotion among health plans and group and voluntary benefits insurers, it’s “uncertainty.” That uncertainly extends to what the customer experience will be like on the public and private exchanges. And as I called out in a recent blog, if the website experience we recently scored is any indication, there will be some pretty unhappy shoppers, because the exchanges and health plan websites haven’t made the shopping and buying journey easy.
But while a consumer in 2013 might suck it up because they just gotta have health insurance this year, they won’t put up with it at renewal time. We expect a lot of churn, especially among the customers the plans most want to retain. Of course, we’re talking about the:
Good — healthy and wellness-minded, and very likely younger.
The power of celebrity is like catnip for marketers. Celebrity or athletic association adds an aspirational edge through outright paid endorsement or coveted “as seen on” editorial placement. In the world of beauty, brands from Cover Girl to L’Oreal add a sheen of glamour to their brands through celebrity spokesmodels. In the field of sports marketing, brands from Nike to Gatorade borrow equity from high-powered athletes to bolster their athletic credentials. And in retail, mass retailers from Macy’s to Sears offer eponymous product lines from celebrities as diverse as Sean Combs to the ubiquitous Kardashians. Q scores are tracked, contracts are negotiated, and millions of dollars exchange hands. But is it worth it?
If you ask consumers how important celebrity endorsement is to their brand selection, most will vehemently deny it. In fact, our North American Consumer Technographics® data shows that only 19% of consumers rate celebrity or athlete endorsement as important when picking a brand. But most people will probably tell you that advertising doesn’t affect them either. So we decided to dig a little deeper. Forrester conducted a driver analysis in the big-box retail category to identify which category attributes and behaviors have the most meaningful impact on key outcomes like being a more trusted or essential brand. Our research showed that in big-box retail, celebrity or athletic endorsement:
I remember my first day at high school. Yikes it was scary. The older kids were BIG! The teachers were BIG (the phys ed teacher was even a little mean), the school was BIG . . . Everything felt so BIG! But as the year ticked by, l became familiar and comfortable with my classmates, teachers, and the school -- the place shrunk to a more comforting size.
Today marketers feel about data as I did about my first day at big school -- it’s BIG. There is lots of it, and it’s coming at them from many directions and in many forms. But data does not feel so big and daunting to the marketer who recognizes their customers buried in the fog of big data. The fact is, customer recognition is the key for marketers to make sense of big data; and it is at the heart of all effective marketing activities. I write about this in my most recent report: “Customer Recognition: The CI Keystone.”
So what is customer recognition?
Recognition associates interactions with individuals or segments across time and interactions. The strength of recognition is gauged on its ability to associate interactions to anything from individuals to a broad segment; and to persist those associations across different touchpoints over time.
Keys are needed for recognition at touchpoints. There are many types of keys, ranging from IP addresses, to cookie-based TPIKs, to phone numbers and customer account numbers. At Forrester we call them touchpoint interaction keys (TPIKs)
We’ve probably all heard some story about over-the-top customer experience in our day. Like the story about the family on vacation at the Ritz Carlton, Bali. The family of a child with a severe food allergy was on vacation. The food they’d brought for their child spoiled en route. When they arrived, the manager of the hotel consulted with his executive chef who was unaware of any shops on the island that stocked the specialty items that had spoiled. But he did recall a shop in Singapore, where his mother-in-law lived, which stocked food the child could safely eat. So what did he do? He called his mother-in-law had her get the items and jump on a plane to Bali. For those of you who are curious, that’s a 3-plus-hour flight!
Stories such as these stand out for obvious reasons. But they don’t scale. That’s why companies need to focus on delivering great experiences, day in and day out, with products and services that meet customer needs, are easy to use, and are enjoyable.
It’s this last piece — enjoyability — that’s so hard to pin down. Why? First off, enjoyability is subjective. What one person thinks of as fun, another person thinks of as foolish. Skydiving, anyone? (I’ve tried it and think it’s kind of cool, but maybe it’s not your thing.) What’s more, many of the things that we think benefit customers, such as providing seemingly unlimited product configurations or service choices, are actually the opposite of enjoyable because they cause anxiety and hurt the decision-making process. And to top things off, it’s hard to sustain an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Ever been to a theater to watch an otherwise-satisfying movie only to be disappointed with the ending? How about being treated like royalty when considering signing up for a service only to be disappointed by how you were treated once you became a paying customer?
You don’t need to be a fine woodworker to sit in a chair. An inability to precisely construct an angled mortise and tenon joint does not preclude you from resting your feet. Similarly the time is rapidly approaching where you won’t need to be a marketing scientist to deploy analytics. Ignorance of neural networks will no longer impede your ability to use them to improve a campaign. The democratization of predictive modeling or other trends involving the intersection of customer analytics and marketing technology is much of what I will cover for Forrester Research.
In my new role as a senior analyst I look forward to helping Customer Insight professionals increase marketing and business returns through becoming more intelligent enterprises. This might involve guiding clients on technology decisions, organizational strategy, or benchmarking to their peers. What topics would you like to see me cover?
Only days before the New Hampshire primaries, an article appears on the Des Moines Times-Courier website: “Candidate Chris Christie Hiding Past As Exotic Dancer,” and quickly goes viral, appearing in millions of Twitter streams, Facebook feeds, and email inboxes. Most people see the headline and shake their heads – “Politicians!” As a result, Christie loses the New Hampshire primary, even though the New York Times had revealed that the Des Moines article was a piece of native advertising paid for by a competitor. Christie’s campaign crumbles – from presidential favorite to footnote.
This is the kind of native advertising horror story that’s got old-school journalists hiding under their beds. They ask: “What happens when people don’t know who paid for the content?”
The example, and any horror story like it, is hyperbolic. It’s not going to happen. (And if politicians wanted to tar an opponent, there are far slicker ways to do it.)
In fact, native advertising’s been going on for decades. The original soap operas were native advertising. So are those boring “Invest in Tackyvania” inserts in The Economist.
The journalists and editors are worried about the skyrocketing popularity of native advertising online for a couple of reasons:
1) Online, it’s often not clear what’s a native ad and what isn’t.
2) They worry about how it reflects on their editorial content (and authority).
I spent several days in Buenos Aires last week which was fantastic – great fun and really helpful in terms of understanding what’s happening in the eCommerce market. Wednesday was the annual eCommerce Day event: It was packed with well over a thousand people in the audience. I presented on global eCommerce trends that are set to impact the market in Argentina, and also met with a number of online retailers.
A handful of takeaways from these conversations:
eCommerce in Argentina is still at an early stage. There is tremendous interest in driving eCommerce in Argentina, but the real growth is yet to come. Today’s roughly $2B online retail market is dominated by MercadoLibre, with traditional retailers like Falabella, Garbarino and Walmart increasingly making the online channel a priority. Newer entrants like Dafiti are also carving out a niche in categories such as apparel.
Intra-regional cross-border eCommerce is very limited today. There was much discussion about cross-border eCommerce with China, but today little cross-border eCommerce exists within Latin America itself. Online retailers are anxious to tap into consumers in other countries in the region, but few have made concerted efforts in this area.
Most mobile initiatives are relatively new and focused exclusively on smartphones. Most online retailers’ mobile initiatives are in their infancy in Argentina. Many larger retailers are just rolling out mobile offerings (both apps and websites), and virtually all are focused on smartphones rather than tablets.
Interest in customer experience at pharmaceutical companies has shot up in the past few years. This came home to me more than a year ago at our 2012 Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, where every meeting I took was with one or more decision-makers at pharma companies.
But there’s another reason why I’m looking forward to Tony’s speech. In talking to him during the run-up to our event, I’ve gotten a good look at what he’s doing and why it matters to so many people. Because let’s face it: The prescription drugs we take go right to the most important experience in most of our lives — our health.
Why does customer experience matter to a life-sciences company like Lilly, and what is it doing to make it better? We recently put some of these questions to Tony, and you can read his answers below. I hope you enjoy them and that I get to see you in Los Angeles where we can all hear Tony in person.
Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A. Lilly’s focus on customer experience actually can be traced back to the company’s beginning in 1876 when Colonel Eli Lilly went against the trend of the time and focused on developing products of the highest quality to provide the best experience for his customers.