In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.
The answer is sadly, not very well at all.
Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.
So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.
Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.
At the end of January, I spoke at the Esomar Shopper Insights Conference and part of my speech was about how technology makes the market insights professional role more challenging in some ways. For example, technology has made the world flat: The Internet makes it possible for information to travel fast, and it feels like we know everything about anything (or at least we could).* But my point was that knowing doesn’t equal understanding.
And in the past weeks, with the world on fire, this thought has been nibbling at the back of my mind. It was there when I watched television and followed the latest developments in Egypt or Morocco. When I read the news or watched the videos and pictures from the earthquake in Japan, or more recently when Britain, France and the US decided to intervene in Libya. I can follow the news minute by minute via Facebook or Twitter (and I do), but I feel I lack the context and local background to really understand what’s going on — like most of us. How will the intervention in Libya change the relationships in that part of the world? How will the earthquake and the issues with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant affect the Japanese economy? The world is flat, but we are still limited by our own horizons.
As Andrew McInnes pointed out in his report "Ten Major Voice Of The Customer Trends," more companies are closing the loop with their customers. During Forrester's 2009 Voice Of The Customer Awards, entrants with closed-loop processes were the exception. In 2010, they were the rule, with many top finalists integrating closed-loop processes into their sales and marketing efforts. For this year’s awards (by the way, nominations are now open), we expect to see a new crop of innovative closed-loop applications.
But just like any well-intentioned action, closing the loop isn’t always the right thing to do.
A few months ago, a friend of mine got married. I was really excited to see that her gift registry site included severable charitable donation options, and I quickly decided on a $100 donation to the Massachusetts SPCA. On the gift registry site, I needed to enter a “quantity” of $1 donations to get to my desired total donation — which is a bit weird in and of itself — but the real problem I had was that the quantity field would only accept two digits! So instead of making a nice round $100 donation, I ended up donating $99.
Because I didn’t want to look like a complete weirdo to my friend and her new hubby, I added this explanation to the gift message I sent them through the donation site: “Hmmm. The field where I could enter the quantity of our donation would only allow for two digits, so that's why you're getting a wacky $99 donation. :) I just can't take a break from usability . . . ”
Ever wonder why most digital interactions fail to engage users? In part, it’s because users can’t easily decipher who they’re dealing with. Instead of actively developing unique experiences that support how they want their brands to be perceived, companies chase features and functions that others have implemented. At best, the result is bland cookie-cutter experiences that leave users uninspired. At worst, brands can seem downright schizophrenic to users who get unpredictable experiences as they move from channel to channel.
It’s not easy to create a strong emotional bond through an interface because it’s difficult for users to see the people behind digital interaction points. Instead, they see a mere screen or a system. But people are far more predisposed to creating connections with other people than they are with an interface. That’s why firms need to pay attention to the brand personality they’re trying to convey and make their digital experiences feel more human. Of course, the solution isn’t just to plaster your website with happy faces or buzzwords. Instead, firms can take a more systematic approach and follow the principles of Forrester’s Emotional Experience Design framework. Here are a couple of ways for firms to establish brand personality:
Match visual designs across channels so that users can easily recognize the brand as they cross interaction points.
Keep in sync with the brand attributes that they want people to associate with them by creating content that conveys brand messages and by crafting the right voice to further convey those messages.
Adopt a human tone that lands in the right place in between robotic, just-the-facts approaches and overdone marketing speak that comes off as fake.
But in my opinion, some careful thought is needed to position the store chain alongside HMV’s evolving digital persona. HMVDigital, launched last July, is their take on iTunes. As a digital destination for downloading music it seems to stand on its own two feet. Product scope is a little limited in that it’s music only (no videos), but I can only assume that they have a roadmap to open up new product categories over time.
They are clearly set on taking on iTunes at their own game, a fact that is evident from the site’s logo when you link to it from HMV.com – the old familiar, faithful HMV hound listening to a gramophone, sat right in the middle of a now familiar iPod control wheel. An interesting choice.
It would be a shame if all HMV did here was attempt to mimic iTunes, as they have one ace up their sleeve that iTunes can’t (yet) mimic; a nationwide chain of high street stores staffed with music loving store colleagues. Although the products may become digital, I believe that there is a place for human interaction that multichannel retailers such as HMV can capitalise on. And interestingly, from the tone of his Retail Week address, Fox believes this too.
My first Blog post as a Forrester Analyst and I was going to go little further than saying “hey, hello!” but I figure why not take a few minutes to dig into a couple of subjects that I’m looking at.
Forrester have a large and growing body of research and a dedicated team of Analysts and Researchers serving eBusiness and Channel strategy professionals, and our research plan for the next year covers some bold topics like Agile Commerce, the future of Mobile as a channel and the growing power of Social Media. While I’ll be looking at these topics and more, I’ve joined Forrester with a specific brief, and that is to bring some focus to the European Retail arena.
I’ve come to Forrester from Boots, where I worked for the last 4 years in the Enterprise Architecture group leading the architecture strategy across both on-line and stores, and my move to Forrester is, in my opinion, a sign of Forrester’s commitment to do what we repeatedly tell you to do with your Retail efforts.
Make them Relevant and Contextual.
So that’s my primary mission, at least to begin with. Making what we do here at Forrester relevant and contextual to the challenges and opportunities of the European market. That isn’t to say I won’t be looking at broader global eCommerce trends, and in fact one of the first pieces of work I’m doing is on the evolution of video in eCommerce (more on that soon). But to support those of you who are either focusing on or are looking to move into the European market, I’m working on a broader piece looking into the state of Multichannel Retail in Europe.
If there is anything I can help you with, or if there are any burning topics you would like to see us focus on, then please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get engaged in our community.
I've been talking a lot lately about how to build great digital branding programs, and it's gotten me thinking about the best ones I've ever seen. Remember the Ford Explorer home page takeover on Yahoo from years ago, that actually shook the browser window as the truck drove across the screen? (It's so old I can't even find a screen shot of it online.) Apple reprised the idea for an iPod program about 18 months ago — as have many others — but the Ford one was both more amazing (I mean, the browser shook) and one of the first that really got people talking. It was incredibly bold in its creative execution but also in its media buy (while there's nothing special about buying home page advertising on the then-biggest website, just think about the monetary bet they put on that buy! It must've cost a fortune).
The Audi program that won a Forrester Groundswell Award last year was fantastic too — using a combination of online content and social media to raise awareness of the automaker's new A1 model. Why? It gave users a customized impression of the new brand (by letting them customize the car) and it was intelligently distributed through a huge number of social channels.
Mobile marketing spend is forecast to hit around 750 million by the end of 2011 and more than 1,250 million by 2014. However, the number of consumers exposed to mobile advertising is still low. In fact, Forrester Technographics surveys shows that two-thirds of online mobile consumers don't remember being exposed to any mobile ads. Of those who had been exposed, the majority (52%) didn't take any actions. For those who did respond, calling a local business or storing a number as a new contact were the most popular activities.
But just because many consumers haven't engaged with mobile marketing yet doesn't mean they don't want to. In fact, 13% of online mobile consumers say that they would like to receive coupons to be used while shopping and 10% would like to be able to look up product information. About one-fifth of online mobile consumers are open to receiving SMS messages from companies in return for promotions, discounts, or free downloads(and this number jumps to more than one-third of Gen Yers).
But to be successful at their mobile efforts, companies need to determine which type of engagement will work best with their target audience and what key objectives resonate most. For example, are you trying to drive awareness, foot traffic, or campaign involvement? Understanding these objectives will help determine whether your organization should engage consumers through an SMS campaign offering a reward or whether it should try to intercept consumers while they are searching.
I am so pumped that Dana Anderson is speaking at the Forrester 2011 Marketing Forum in early April. Dana is Kraft Foods’ Senior Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Communications, and she’s one smart lady. She works across the Kraft portfolio to bring fresh marketing ideas and innovation to icons like Oreo and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Dana also has a wicked sense of humor. Her keynote “The Bad Boys’ Guide To Digital Bliss” will illustrate what marketers can learn from Robert Downey Jr. and Jay-Z – not your usual marketing role models!
I asked Dana a few questions on how to drive digital change in a traditional organization. Her answers point to both the fundamental shifts that will characterize the next decade and the perennial truths of marketing (great ideas start with great teams). We hope you can make it to San Francisco to hear more . . .
CO: What are the biggest changes that marketers should expect in the next digital decade?
DA: Whew, 10 years is a long time in the digital world. Facebook is only seven years old and Hulu is only four years old. While I wish I could predict how things would be in 2021, I can tell you the hints I’m seeing right now that foretell a very exciting future for marketing.
There are only three weeks left until Forrester’s Marketing Forum, and the excitement surrounding this event is growing exponentially. Our focus this year is on how companies must radically shift their marketing practices to account for the myriad of new methods and media that people use to engage with a company and its brands and products. Our goal is to help you learn how to adjust to this new digital world we call the Splinternet.
In classic Forrester style, we run our presentation tracks to cater to each of the roles we serve within the marketing and strategy organization. For the market insights (MI) professional track, my colleagues Tamara Barber and Jackie Anderson have prepared some great content, starting first with Tamara’s take on the future of the MI department and then shifting to the awesome panel of speakers Jackie has lined up on what youth research can teach us about 21st century market insights. Next up for our track, I will walk you through some cool, emerging, and innovative research methodologies that you can use to understand this new type of customer.