Marketers Should Cut Ad Budgets To Thrive In The Age Of The Customer

Shar VanBoskirk

At least once a week I get a client inquiry wondering what is "the next big thing in interactive marketing," seeking to identify what will out-tweet Twitter or out Goog Google.  Well, in his new report, Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, my colleague Josh Bernoff articulates what is next for all businesses: A disruptive shift, where the power of customers means that firms must focus on the customer now more than any other strategic imperative.  In fact, the only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers. In this age, companies that thrive, like Best Buy, IBM, and Amazon, are those that tilt their budgets toward customer knowledge and relationships.

See Josh's post Welcome To The Age Of The Customer: Invest Accordingly for detail on how the Age of the Customer disrupts established competitive strategy.

The zinger in this report for interactive marketers is to: Prioritize word of mouth over mouthing off. Cut your ad budget by at least 10%, and spend the money on connections that have a multiplier effect like social, devices, and content. Ads are far more effective when customers are primed to believe them.

This means that interactive marketing of the future is really focused on interactivity -- not just on pushing out marketing messages through digital channels.  Three ways to get started creating more interactive marketing relationships:

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Revisiting Customer Lifetime Value

Srividya Sridharan

Relationship marketers love customer lifetime value (CLV) as a concept because it puts the customer at the core of the marketing investment decision and sneaks a peek into the future worth of the customer. But in reality, arriving at customer lifetime value is often a herculean task and the assortment of CLV approaches available doesn’t make the process any easier.

My latest research, titled “Navigating The Customer Lifetime Value Conundrum,” highlights key considerations for firms who plan to embark on the CLV journey. As a continuation of this research stream, I asked our Customer Intelligence community members what their experience with CLV was and a few interesting points emerged:

  • Inclusion of intangible value. At what point is it important to account for the intangible, non-transactional value that customers are generating especially through all the emerging channel interactions such as referrals, recommendations, likes, user-generated content, etc.? 
  • Blurry definitions of "best" customers. Traditionally, resources are channeled toward your best customers with positive net present value (NPV). But often there is conflicting choice between investing in high-value, low-usage customers and low-value, high-usage customers. As a result, defining your "best" or "worst" customer/segment is not as obvious as a positive or negative NPV.
  • Diversity of CLV users. CLV is not just the domain of marketing or customer-focused teams, but it touches other stakeholders in the organizations. How do non-marketing stakeholders such as finance teams in your organization view this metric? Is CLV as important to non-marketing stakeholders as it is to marketing?
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What The Age Of The Customer Means For Market Insights Professionals

Reineke Reitsma

Today my colleague Josh Bernoff  is publishing a report that shows how we’re about to enter a new era, called 'The Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer'. This report is a call to action for you and your company about how to remain competitive in a changed world where customers are highly empowered.

Whereas in the age of manufacturing, the age of distribution, and most recently the age of information, companies that had the best skills were winning, in this age of the customer, only companies that fully understand their customers’ needs will win over their hearts (and with that, wallet share). And it’s not enough to be customer-centric — in fact, companies should be customer-obsessed. This is not just jargon, it has a real meaning:

A customer obsessed company focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of an engagement with customers, and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.

This report is very relevant for market insights professionals because they are the ones that will need to support their organization to understand the (hidden) drivers behind the needs of the customers — and how to delight them. Josh Bernoff shares more of his insights in this blog post, and clients can access the report here.

Apple Store 2.0 = The End Of Kiosks As We Know Them

Kerry Bodine

Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a report called “Taking In-Person Self-Service From Blah To Brilliant.” Here’s an excerpt: “Speaking of steel-enclosed stale fruitcakes, there's been a dearth of evolution — let alone revolution — in kiosk fixture design. Forrester has attended semi-annual kiosk industry conferences since 2005, and the only thing staler than the kiosks’ designs have been the bagels.”

In addition to boring kiosk enclosures, my research from the time found kiosk software riddled with usability problems — like missing content, confusing language, bad grammar, inappropriate pacing, and weak and annoying feedback — in industries as varied as retail, financial services, and transportation.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. Until last week.

With the launch of the Apple Store 2.0, Apple ushered in a new era of in-store self-service. In my post about the news, I suggested that this might mark Apple’s entry into an in-store customer experience platform: “For years, Apple employees have had the seemingly magical ability to check customers out from anywhere in the store. Now, with the addition of relatively cheap interactive signage and employee paging, Apple is positioned to sell a more complete in-store customer experience solution to companies ranging from independent boutique owners to multinational banks.”

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The Art Of Listening

Kim Celestre

"It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen" - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I had the privilege of wisdom to listen to many individuals from various B2B and B2C companies last week at the Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas. One of my favorite aspects of my new analyst job here at Forrester is to meet with tech marketers and hear about the creative ways many of them are using social media to deliver customer value. The individuals I had the pleasure to meet at IT Forum last week certainly did not disappoint, and these discussions were the highlights of my time spent in lovely downtown Las Vegas (insert sarcastic tone here for I am not a big fan of Las Vegas).   

A few key takeaways I had from IT Forum were the following: 1) The lines that once divided B2C and B2B are beginning to blur; 2) Companies are looking for new and improved ways to obtain deeper, more meaningful engagements with customers; and 3) Social media continues to be an area of focus for many companies, albeit many are looking for more effective B2B social media channels, i.e., in addition to Facebook and Twitter.

That said, some of the research I will be conducting in the upcoming months will touch upon each of these topics. I would love to hear your thoughts on your B2B social media strategies! I am here to listen, after all ;-)

Can There Be Device-Agnostic Research?

Reineke Reitsma

About six weeks ago, I attended the Mobile Research conference 2011 in London, where a variety of vendors and clients talked about their experiences with mobile as a research methodology. They shared a range of mobile research methodologies, like using text messages in emerging markets, mobile ethnographic studies, geolocation tracking, and mobile behavioral tracking data. You can find most of the presentations here, and if you want to see me in action as roving reporter, you can click here.

During the whole conference, there was a clear line between the benefits and challenges of online research versus mobile research, and how the two can strengthen each other. Then at the end of the second day, someone asked the following question to the audience: “Do you consider tablets a PC or mobile device?” The answer was almost unanimous: a mobile device.

This got me thinking about the whole concept of mobile research in more detail. In fact, I was wondering if something like a mobile research conference would still exist in a couple of years, because the rapid technological developments of smartphones and tablets will blur the line between mobile and online research. Can we, as researchers, continue to define the research methodology in the future, or are the respondents going to do that? This line of thinking led me to ask this question to our community members: Should research be device-agnostic?

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Mobile Is Bridging The Digital And Physical Worlds: It Is Time To Invent New Product And Services

Thomas Husson

Google’s product strategists just announced the launch of Google Wallet — an NFC-based mobile payment solution. As my colleague Charlie Golvin pointed out, this is another early salvo in what will be a long and hard-fought battle to change consumers’ payment behavior and, as a potential result, the makeup of the payments landscape.

We have covered this issue in more detail in a new Forrester report “Google Wallet Is Not About Mobile Payments.” Clients can access the report here.

Given its core search business and ad-based revenue model, why would the company make that investment? Because Google’s product strategists’ focus is not on the payment itself; it’s on all of the other elements that comprise a commerce experience and the data that characterizes those elements.

Indeed, appending real-world purchase information to its treasure trove of online behavioral data will vastly increase the value of customers’ profiles and increase the rates Google can charge its advertisers. It will be a way for Google to increase its local presence. NFC is too often equated simply with payments, but Google understands that NFC tags have broad application (working like Quick Response [QR] and other 2D barcodes do today). Google can help retailers use NFC tags for in-store promotions and check-ins, augmenting the understanding of customer behavior for ad targeting.

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Unlikely Data Partnerships: A New Reality?

Srividya Sridharan

I was intrigued by the recent announcement that MasterCard and Brighter Planet were teaming up to mine carbon emission data based on corporate cardholder data. This announcement got me thinking about unlikely data partnerships across verticals to productize data and form mutually beneficial partnerships using data as the currency. 

But what’s really interesting is that it elevates the conversation of customer intelligence beyond better campaigns and ROI to the use of customer data for sustainability efforts — a relatively uncommon use case for customer intelligence. 

The concept of data sharing or data partnerships is not new — entire business models exist on making these services available to organizations for smarter targeting and remarketing. Retail data co-ops, online media audience aggregators, and data coalitions are just a few examples of these models. And MasterCard even sells its MasterCard Advisors solution to provide merchants with enhanced data and targeting capabilities.

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Advertising The Customer Experience

Kerry Bodine

My research director Harley Manning has a lot of quips that we affectionately call Harleyisms. One of them goes like this: All ads promise one of three things — you’re gonna get rich, you’re gonna live forever, or you’re gonna get (um, I’ll be polite here) some nookie.

While this might have been somewhat true during the golden age of advertising, I’ve noticed a new ad trend over the past several years: More marketers are advertising the customer experiences that their companies deliver. Here are a few examples:

  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad ads put viewers in the perspective of holding the devices in their own hands, all while demonstrating how easy they are to use and the real-world value they provide (like finding the best price on a book or getting step-by-step cooking instructions).
  • JetBlue promoted its customer experience in a series of hilarious ads that poke fun at the draconian policies employed by its competitors.
  • Virgin America’s San Francisco subway ads say, “LAND WITH AN EMPTY INBOX. SFO -> DALLAS FORT WORTH WITH WIFI.”
  • San Francisco bus ads for Saint Francis and Saint Mary’s hospitals promise: “ER WAIT TIME: UNDER 30 MINUTES.”
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Guest Post: James McDavid On Mojitos And Minimal Techno At 35,000 Feet

Nate Elliott

Our London-based Interactive Marketing Research Associate James McDavid chimes in with this great tale of how listening to and embracing your fans in social media can create powerful word-of-mouth marketing:

As every dance music aficionado knows, Miami is the place to be every March as it hosts the Winter Music Conference (WMC), an event that brings together leading lights from the industry to party, share records, and make fun of Paris Hilton. So when Dutch airline KLM announced they'd be launching a new route between Amsterdam and Miami at the end of March 2011, a couple of Dutch DJs tweeted KLM to see if the airline could move the flight forward a week to coincide with the WMC. The DJs claimed that they could fill a flight from Amsterdam to Miami solely with revelers and ravers. KLM, seeing a great opportunity to show off their social savvy, offered the DJs a challenge — if they could get 150 people to register in seven days, then KLM would move the inaugural flight forward — and, as a bonus, let the DJs spin some records in the cabin.

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