Around this time of year, one can’t help but become reflective. I know I’m not alone when I say that, on the one hand, this year somehow shot past faster than the last one, but on the other hand, it was jam-packed with new discoveries, fresh ideas, and memorable experiences. In particular, this has been a milestone year for the data insights innovation team here at Forrester, as we officially launched our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes mobile behavioral, social listening, online qualitative, and survey data. As I think back on my experiences with the Technographics 360 initiative inside Forrester, paired with my industry learnings outside Forrester, a few key lessons come to mind that I will take into the new year:
1. Synthesis is “in.” In fact, I learned so much about this topic, I wrote a full blog post dedicated to it! In essence, we now live in a world where the truest insight is a product of synthesis – building knowledge up – rather than of analysis – breaking ideas down. I recently attended SSI’s seminar featuring Simon Chadwick, who proposed that data synthesis is “the next big thing” in insight skills. I agree: With so many diverse data sources at our fingertips that offer unique perspectives on consumers’ lives, researchers need to put the puzzle pieces together to construct a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.
Taxi-hailing apps are gaining momentum globally, and China is a very important battlefield for both international players like Uber and local players like Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache. While the battle for market share and consumer loyalty is ongoing, monetization has also appeared on the agenda of these taxi-hailing apps. Pioneer marketers have started to experiment with mobile advertising on Didi, and Huawei is one of them.
On December 17, 2014, Huawei sponsored Didi’s lucky money in its first attempt to place mobile ads on Didi for its newest smartphone, the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. Huawei has embedded the product name, ad copy, and images in Didi lucky money and aims to reach the more than 100 million Didi users and their friends on WeChat. Huawei has created four opportunities for ad exposure:
1. Banner ad on the menu page of the Didi app
2. Full-page ad when the user clicks into the banner ad
3. Sponsorship of Didi lucky money shared in WeChat
4. Full-page ad embedded in Didi lucky money
This ad campaign has certainly created buzz and attracted attention. However, Huawei could improve its implementation by:
Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been highly lucrative for retailers, but this year saw another drop in spending specifically on Black Friday. In the meantime, online shopping continues to soar, and the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend provided consumers with deep-discount sales. In short, the weekend itself is becoming less valuable to the average consumer. But how does consumer sentiment match up with this shift in behavior? How do perceptions of the 2014 holiday season differ from those of years past and consumers’ initial expectations?
As part of our recent research efforts, we leveraged Forrester’s Technographics® 360 multimethodology research approach to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping habits (using our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community) and to track online conversation and sentiment relative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading up to the holidays and afterwards (using NetBase aggregated social listening data).
Late last night, Sony revealed that it would pull The Interview from its release schedule. This decision was made in response to the step taken by the major theater chains, all agreeing that they would not screen the movie on its release day. The unprecedented decision is causing consternation among entertainment media types who feel that Sony has put the right of free speech in jeopardy. That's a conversation worth having, and I'm glad it's happening. But there is an entirely new question that this situation brings into dramatic relief, one that didn't exist before and one that our premeditations won't help us resolve. The question is this:
Can companies participate in cyber war?
Up until now, companies have prepared to defend themselves against cyber attacks as one-off nuisances. Such attacks are now so common that they no longer make the news. Even massive breaches where millions of customer data points are compromised tend to give us pause for only a few moments, perhaps a few days, and then we move on. But what Sony experienced was not just a security breach. This hack was a declaration of cyber war intended to bring Sony to its digital knees: a low-cost digitally effective cyber war that puts none of the hackers' assets in harm's way. And given yesterday's announcement, it appears to have worked.
China’s Xiaomi became the world's third-largest smartphone maker by market share for the first time in the third quarter of this year; it trails only Samsung and Apple and has surpassed its Chinese competitor Lenovo. As a somewhat new brand founded in 2010, Xiaomi’s achievement is impressive. Among the many factors contributing to Xiaomi's rising success, social marketing is, without doubt, a prominent one.
Xiaomi’s recipe for success contains three social ingredients:
Adopt various social platforms and tactics to engage with fans. Xiaomi has successfully integrated social into its marketing RaDaR and turned 11 million social media followers into super-loyal “Mi Fans.” It uses Weibo to attract new users (reach); its branded online community to provide detailed product and service information (depth) and to generate brand loyalty (relationship); and WeChat for customer service (relationship).
Extend the social frenzy offline. Xiaomi is a digital disruptor, but its social marketing success isn’t limited to the online world. Xiaomi values the power of its fans on social media and extends it offline. It named its annual new product launch event after its fans – the Mi Fan Festival. Xiaomi also holds gatherings for its fans in more than 100 cities in China and organizes events, such as the MiBand Run, to enhance the relationship between its fans and the brand.
with Allison Smith, Xiaofeng Wang and Vanessa Zeng
Chinese social platforms have started to engage in commerce via partnerships with eCommerce marketplaces, but online sales conversion rates from social traffic have been disappointing. For example, in May, 360buy (JD.com) — the second-largest B2C eCommerce marketplace — received a level-one access point on WeChat, the hottest social platform in China, but this didn’t deliver the large quantity of fulfilled mobile orders that the company expected. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com, confirmed during the company’s Q3 financial earnings call that the majority of fulfilled mobile orders still originate from JD.com’s own mobile app. Forrester sees two major inhibitors of social commerce in China:
People don’t expect to see commercial promotions of products they don’t want on social media. Consumers normally blacklist friends or public accounts that push these ads, making it difficult to implement traditional B2C or C2C eCommerce models on social platforms. However, if social marketplaces can provide people a tool in those moments in which they actually want to buy a certain product, it may enable social commerce.
Customers have poor discovery and buying experiences on social commerce platforms. Social platforms in China that sell products and services online have limited search functionality, which does not make for a user-friendly customer discovery stage. Chinese consumers have gotten used to being able to compare many products and prices when making online purchases — but current social commerce platforms can’t support that.
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
In the first season of the hugely popular CBS Undercover Boss series, GSI Commerce founder and CEO Michael Rubin went undercover for a week in one of his firm’s eCommerce distribution centers to find out what it was really like to work on the front lines. Last week, SucharitaMulpuru and I were invited by eBay Enterprise to follow in Michael's footsteps and go work the floor in one of eBay Enterprise’s (formerly GSI Commerce) largest eCommerce distribution centers at the peak of the holiday shopping season. Now luckily we didn’t have to wear any stick on facial hair as we weren’t actually undercover, but we did put in a grueling four hour shift: picking, sorting and packing online orders (yes they made us work).
The experience was fascinating, humbling and a reminder that you can have the best eCommerce website in the world, but it means nothing on Cyber Monday unless you can get those orders out to your customers in time. So what did we observe from our brief career change?
CMOs historically focused narrowly on marketing and promotion. That’s not enough in the age of the customer. The CMO of 2015 must own the most important driver of business success -- the customer experience -- and represent the customer’s perspective in corporate strategy. Andy Childs at Paychex is a great example -- he owns not only traditional marketing but strategic planning and M&A.
I'm packing to leave Paris and it's a hard town to leave. Not only because I managed to catch a glimpse of a Paris sunset last night from the top of Notre Dame, but because I'm leaving LeWeb Paris 2014 while it's still in full swing. There's no denying LeWeb is one of the most invigorating events I've attended. Highlights in the first two days included a candid discussion on Uber with celebrity venture capitalist Fred Wilson and amazing comments from Web founder Tim Berners-Lee on everything from robots to net neutrality to Europe's "right to be forgottten" laws. Most invigorating for me personally was the day one session on wearables. LeWeb invited me to curate this hour-long track as part of its new format, tackling multiple themes in short bursts over several days. Curation required pulling together experts on the topic which was both simple and difficult. Simple because there are some great ones to choose from, difficult because I would have had 10 people on stage if I could have managed it. But that's where the hard task of curation comes in.