Why do you use the remote to change the channel on your TV? An airplane to fly across the country? A microwave to heat up food? Why -- because it is convenient. Consumers will adopt and use convenient services and products. In mobile, this means services that offer immediacy and simplicity through a highly contextual experience. If my gate changes for my flight leaving in 40 minutes, I want to know now -- there is value in knowing now or immediately. If I want to donate money to the flood victims in Louisiana, it is simpler to send a quick text message rather than write a check and mail it. If I want to eat Thai food near my home, I want to find a restaurant in San Francisco -- near my location (context). Using my phone that leverages my location through GPS is simpler than typing in a neighborhood or address.
Mobile phones are convenient tools to do many things today -- refill a prescription, deposit a check, navigate, check Facebook, or get email. The list of convenient services on mobile phones is going to continue to grow. Why? Because contextual information is going to get a lot, lot richer. Today, context is primarily the location of an individual, their stated preferences, or past behavior (e.g., purchases). This information is gathered as consumers use their mobile phones for navigation, news, and shopping. The information collected will become much richer for two reasons. First, consumers will use their phones to do more things (e.g., change channels on the TV, monitor glucose levels, and open their car doors). Second, devices will have sensors such as barometers or microbolometers that collect more information passively about the consumer’s environment. The available information is becoming richer -- companies that want to deliver contextual experiences must evolve their expertise.
In Seth Godin’s recent post, "Who’s responsible for service design?" he points out several service issues with questions like, “How many people should be answering the phone at Zappos.com on a Saturday? What’s Southwest Airlines' policy regarding hotel stays and cancelled flights? Should the knobs on the shower at the hotel go side by side or one above the other?” He then goes on to say, “Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault.”
I’m totally with him up to that point.
But then he goes on to blame two sets of people for service delivery issues: overpaid executives and service designers. Yes, executives set the direction for customer experience. And yes, there is a growing cadre of service designers in service design firms and in-house design teams. But I’d argue that these professionals are responsible for just a tiny fraction of the service experiences that exist today. Unfortunately, most companies just aren’t aware of the field of service design or the value it brings, so they haven't hired service designers to assist with customer experience efforts.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been part of a group that picked the winners of Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards for 2011. I can’t yet tell you the names of the three winners — those companies will be announced on June 21 at our Customer Experience Forum in New York, along with the other seven entrants that made up our top 10. But I can share some insight into what separated the winners from the contenders.
At one end of the spectrum, the clarity with which entrants described their programs didn’t create much differentiation. With very few exceptions, descriptions ranged from very clear to extremely clear and “please stop with the detail already, my eyes are starting to bleed” clear.
At the other end of the spectrum, the business benefits that companies derived from their voice of the customer (VoC) programs provided diamond-hard clarity as to which companies were great and which were just good.
To understand why that is, consider the question in the awards submission form that asks about business benefits. It was worded exactly like this:
“How has this activity improved your organization's business results? Please be as specific as possible about business benefits like increased revenue, decreased cost, increased customer satisfaction, or decreased customer complaints. Please specify how you measure those benefits.”
The judges were looking for a response along the lines of:
We heard these specific things from customers through our VoC program.
As a result of what we heard, we made these specific changes.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Martin Gill and I took a stroll around London in order to see what retailers were doing in their multichannel efforts. Martin challenged me to do a similar walk-through of the Fifth Avenue stores here in NYC, and our results were largely similar.
The Club Monaco store was an exciting start given its proximity to our offices (directly below). It displayed QR codes on its windows which, in the right sunlight, led my mobile device to a YouTube video.
The effort was nice but served more as an engagement tool, not really anything that would help to drive sales.
The walk around was characterized by a few key themes:
Absence of multi-touchpoint approach. After Monaco, I encountered Ann Taylor Loft, LensCrafters, and American Apparel, none of which had anything beyond their traditional store experience. From the lack of multichannel signs (not even a URL on the window!), users might not know the Internet and phones existed, let alone the wide array of opportunities (QR codes, location-based notifications) that retailers have at their disposal.
Missed opportunities. Aveda had a large charity promotion going on in its store. However, there was no signage with a website link, no mention of Facebook, and no effort to drive the event beyond the store’s windows.
I cover the recommendation engines space for online retail and got a call recently that one of the better-known players in the space Rich Relevance acquired a smaller but specialized player in the space CNET Intelligent Cross-Sell. It’s a bold move and one that strengthens Rich Relevance in the consumer electronics vertical, and it also seems to be a trend. We’ve received a lot of these kinds of calls recently — eBay acquiring GSI Commerce, Nordstrom acquiring HauteLook, Shutterfly acquiring Tiny Prints, and Walgreen’s acquiring drugstore.com. And this follows a slew of acquisitions over the past few years by players like IBM, Oracle, and Adobe trying to enrich their retail suites. Rich Relevance didn’t tell me specifics like deal terms, but it seems to point to bigger factors affecting eCommerce these days:
Wicked competition. There have just been too many point solutions in eCommerce. Walk the exhibition floor at Shop.org or Internet Retailer, and it’s dizzying to see how many niche needs that eCommerce platforms don’t serve are delivered by third-party players. It’s overwhelming for anyone tasked with managing an RFP to make sense of it all. On top of that, there are all sorts of inexpensive (even free) solutions that promise a good-enough solution for everything from analytics to recommendations, so the need to partner up and go to market as a united front just makes sense for so many smaller players. As for traditional (and even established web retailers), they struggle with being nimble. As the expression goes, “When you can’t beat ‘em . . .”
I am absolutely thrilled to publish my very first blog as a Senior Analyst here at Forrester and am looking forward to providing you with a lot of exciting research and thought-provoking insights on what continues to be a hot topic in the technology industry: Social Media in B2B. As many of you know, social media is evolving at a very fast pace, and one of my goals is to keep you posted on the latest trends we are seeing and how you, the tech marketer, can utilize these insights to create effective social strategies for engaging with your customers.
How did I wind up here at Forrester? Well, prior to joining the talented TI Tech Marketing team in April, I spent 14 years at Sun Microsystems, working in various senior marketing roles. I was fortunate enough to lead some pretty groundbreaking campaigns that utilized social media and other emerging marketing tactics. These projects ranged from executing basic marketing strategies using blogs and YouTube to very complex, multi-faceted social media campaigns to drive new product adoption for Sun's software and Java product groups. Lots of fantastic stuff that is worthy of a separate blog post!
After Sun was acquired, I spent the past year at Oracle as a Global Campaigns Manager responsible for Java, cloud computing and enterprise architecture initiatives, where social media was also a big area of focus for demand generation activities. A few months ago, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to join the Forrester team, and, to make a long story short, I have now hit the ground running with a very rigorous B2B social media research agenda and a speaking engagement at next week's Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas.
Earlier this week, our Sales Enablement team hosted a teleconference about building battle cards that better line up with sales reps’ needs. If you missed the teleconference, you can download the slides and recording; we wrapped up with the following questions asked by CMI professionals:
Question No. 1: What's the best way of collecting intelligence from within our company?
CMI leaders often want to discuss how they can harvest the expertise that lies within the heads of sales reps. We at Forrester haven’t seen any silver bullets, but we are documenting common experiences and planning research on the process of gathering insights and building them into compelling battle cards.
A few methods that we see across the industry include: 1) A CMI leader facilitates calls for reps to discuss issues with sales peers; 2) structured sessions with reps who recently encountered the competitor; and 3) retaining a “panel” of sales managers who meet quarterly to reassess a competitor’s tactics.
Question No. 2: Is the Forrester battle card a competitive document, selling points document, both, or more?
Our recommendations do not outline a specific length, whether the battle card is integrated with product messages or customer pain points (i.e., selling-points document), or what kind of software you use to deliver battle cards to sales reps.
I got jolt this morning, and it wasn’t from my coffee. The headlines in my morning insurance news push were all about last night's announcement that Allstate was acquiring esurance and an agency sibling, Answer Financial for $1 billion (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-18/allstate-to-buy-esurance-in-1-b...). Along with the fact that esurance itself has gone to market with what every ebusiness executive has stated as the big strategy over the near-term—giving the customer the choice in how they want to engage with its new “Technology When You Want It, People When You Don’t” tagline—this deal could well be the start of a more interesting trend: a bigger wave of M&A among Tier 1 carriers.
This news was especially tantalizing because we just wrapped up a series of interviews with insurance thought leaders to get a perspective for how the insurance industry was going to look in 2020. We wanted to understand how these changes were going to impact the jobs of ebiz executives in insurance. This is what we heard:
Enabled by “big data”, carriers are going to:
Shed and acquire business lines to be more specialized and obviously more profitable
Make some splashy acquisitions (like this one),
Launch new and innovative business models (like a “lights out” insurer that, in exchange for low premiums, policyholders would have to do more for themselves)
Challenged by new market entrants who “get” data
All of which have big implications for what insurance ebusiness teams will be challenged to do. Look for our thoughts on what 2020 is going to mean later this quarter.
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)