At the root of human behavior is the impulse for connection. History is our witness: As times change, certain trends emerge that anchor shared experiences, around which people collectively rally. Today, with social media acting as a platform for ubiquitous connections, diverse consumers build solidarity around digital experiences. Beyond simply looking for deals and discounts, individuals who “friend,” “follow,” and “like” brands seek closer brand relationships.
However, while consumers around the world want to be part of a brand community, some cultures are more enthusiastic than others. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that Latin American online adults are more passionate about engaging with brands for affective reasons than their European and Japanese counterparts:
This variation roughly parallels Hofstede’s dimensions of culture, which suggests that the differences are partially a reflection of cultural nuances: Those populations that are most motivated to share in the brand community are all-around collectivist rather than individualist.
I recently “overheard” a member of our market research online community (MROC) say, “I treat my smartphone like my child and carry it everywhere I go.” It’s official: Smartphones have replaced children. Not really, but the statement speaks to the way that consumers have changed their thinking and behavior because of mobile devices. The rapid adoption and dominant presence of mobile devices speaks to their importance in consumers' daily lives.
As part of our effort to develop forward-thinking research using innovative approaches, Forrester is collecting behavioral data by tracking consumers' activities on smartphones and tablets. By using a passive tracking technology, we now have a detailed, inside look into what consumers are doing on their smartphones and tablets and when they're doing it. Preliminary results have shown some surprising (and not so surprising) data insights.
Cross-channel sales -- also known as web-influenced sales or transactions that touch a digital medium, but are not completed on the Internet -- are now more than four times larger than online sales alone and will reach $1.8 trillion by 2018. This is according to Forrester's just released five-year US cross-channel retail sales forecast. Offline sales -- primarily web-influenced offline sales -- will comprise nearly 75% of the $475 billion in US retail growth anticipated between 2014 and 2018. This growth in cross-channel sales can be attributed to US online consumers increasingly using their phones in retail stores to research products online. Retailers would be wise to see this growing trend as the new normal; if this is the first you’ve heard about your customers’ in-store mobile behavior, you’re already late to the game.
Despite frequent in-store research on the mobile device, the number of actual mobile transactions remains low. Consumers are more interested in using their phone in the “pre-shop” phase, be it searching for a product’s location, comparing prices, or checking online inventory. Many retailers, such as Target, have found it worthwhile to invest more in mobile services that meet customers’ needs in their pre-shop context rather than at the point of sale. Target has helped customers find specific items in its stores via its mobile app: A customer can create a shopping list within the app, which then maps that list onto the floor map of the customer’s Target store location, guiding them through the aisles from one item to the next.
I showed up at a business meeting in Singapore today and each member of the company within the meeting was wearing a Jawbone. I thought, "Wow, that's unusual ... and statistically very unlikely." Turns out, the company gave the devices to the employees. And ... added some teeth to the program. Approximately one week's compensation each month is linked to the employee's BMI. The formula is a bit more complicated than that, but that is the general idea.
This offers one powerful example of the new business models that mobile enables. (See my research report from this winter that outlines the possiblities.)
Despite the links between wellness and productivity at work, there are many reasons why this model wouldn't fly in the US - at least at a public company. Studies show that healthy employees are more productive, have higher energy levels, etc. However, there are always nuances, pre-existing conditions and laws in the US that protect employees from employers increasing or decreasing compensation based on their perceived health. Genetics come into play. Healthy - fresh, organic, slow cooked, local - foods can be expensive and beyond the research of the average family in the US.
Insurance companies in the US are piloting programs to reward members for good behavior (e.g., exercise, eating healthy foods, sleeping well). Rewarding members with discounts on premiums or vouchers for goods is very different though that linking compensation to an employee's BMI.
I had the opportunity and privilege to get an early look at the new Amazon Fire phone. It delights in many ways, but I’ll focus on the shopping experience enabled through Firefly.
For those who may not remember, Amazon put a dedicated physical button on the left hand side of the phone that launches directly into image recognition. If the image is recognized, then a web-based mCommerce experience launches. The user can then buy the product or it on a wish list, among other things. From there, the experience is more ‘traditional Amazon.’ The ‘new’ is the image, email, URL, etc. recognition.
Why is selling mobile phones important for Amazon? mCommerce in the US alone will add up to nearly $100M by the end of 2014. The new battleground for retailers is in the mobile moment – the point in time and space when a consumer pulls out her phone to get something she needs immediately and in context. Amazon’s FireFly service facilitates two core types of mobile sales moments:
Impulse Sales Moments – these are often flash sales (e.g., WTSO.com, SteepAndCheap, etc.) or spontaneous purchases (e.g., Groupon). The opportunity for Amazon here is in minimizing the friction between consumers seeing something they want, and enabling them to buy it before they forget about it, or find it later in a store nearby.
Replenishment Sales Moments – the phone (or something like an Amazon Dash) is with me when I realize a shampoo bottle or milk is empty or I need more toothpaste.
My latest report, "Case Study: How PURE Insurance Built A Customer-Obsessed Business," is a case study of a company using its customer-obsessed business model to stand out in the insurance industry. Since its start in 2006, PURE has grown more than 40% each year and has one of the highest Net Promoter Scores in any industry.
Entering the crowded competitive insurance industry was no easy task. PURE knew it would need to stand out. That’s why the founders decided to go with a member-owned business model (called a Reciprocal Exchange) that would help differentiate the insurer from other insurance companies owned by shareholders. For PURE, owners as members means alignment between business and customer goals. The company deepens and reinforces this commitment in several ways:
Targets a select group of customers. In addition to creating a member-owned business model, the founders of PURE also focused on a market niche with a distinct and attractive profile. The insurer targets responsible high-net-worth customers. For its homeowners insurance policies, for example, the homes of potential policyholders must have a reconstruction cost of at least $1 million. The company selected this segment because high-net-worth customers represented a favorable risk profile. This, coupled with the fact that the niche lacked significant competition, created an opportunity for PURE to offer highly competitive premiums and still be profitable.
These are exciting times for me, Peter O’Neill, as I ramp up my new position here at Forrester. I must say, my Research Director predecessor was very visionary to use the sales enablement (SE) term at all over three years ago - the first thing I’ve learned is that our sales enablement clients are hardly ever called that . As Scott Santucci writes in his new report: Clarity Is Key To Sales Enablement Success, “The number of sales enablement positions and interest in the topic have exploded over the past five years, yet many questions remain about what it is or which organization should own it “. Even at the SE Forum this March, only 25% of the attendees had SE in their job title - other job titles that appear in the attendees list include various marketing positions, strategic roles such as CEO, CIO or chief strategy officer, and even sales management themselves. Ultimately, we are helping all business people involved in enabling their client-facing employees to have valuable conversations with various sets of customer stakeholders. I am sure that the attendee list at next year’s Forum will also be mixed: it is early days but I suggest you block your calendar now. Colleague Mark Lindwall has just published the first of several reports on the topic of sales force development activities such as hiring, training
I’ll be curious to hear if there is a business strategy update, but I don’t think we’ll have more insights on what “unbundling the big blue app” really means. I think one possible option is that social data and contextual identity will be the layer on top of Facebook’s new social conglomerate.
I personally will be looking more specifically for an update on mobile app installs. There's no doubt that Facebook has disrupted the app marketing space by becoming a key player in app discovery — which is the key driver behind its mobile ad revenues.
A growing and significant part of this business comes from direct marketers looking to drive app installs, primarily from gaming and other businesses that are increasingly dependent on mobile, such as travel and retail companies. These players know the lifetime value of their apps and have calculated how much they can spend to drive each app download and still have a positive return on investment (ROI). But marketers in more-traditional businesses or who are pursuing other marketing goals should pay close attention to the unique attributes of their mobile social users and optimize their social strategies to engage them.
Today Yahoo! announced its acquisition of mobile analytics and ad platform, Flurry. TechCrunch and Kara Swisher on re/code both reported the deal, with a $300M minimum price and $1 billion on the upper end. According to the press release, Flurry sees app activity from 1.4 billion devices monthly and 5.5 billion app sessions per day.
A little math: 1.4 billion devices does not equal one billion active users. However, a user could have one or many apps on his phone with the Flurry software embedded. Apps do not tend to have exclusive arrangements with one mobile analytics provider – let alone the free ones. They tend to have one or more. The code is small and there aren’t many compelling reasons to limit the number of buyers for your inventory unless there is unique value. It becomes hard to compare to the price tags of Viber ($900M) or WhatsApp ($17B to $19B). This is as much a play for audience as it is analytics. Flurry’s scale makes it interesting as an acquisition more so than what they do.
What does the acquisition mean?
No doubt, it’s a huge financial payoff for Flurry and its investors. When we interviewed Flurry a year or so ago for our research, they had 150 employees. 2014 will be known as a year of phenomenal mobile exit events – especially for those companies buying audience. It’s a good time to sell. A few thoughts:
In celebration of the season, Best Western Great Britain is sharing a new idea for a summer expedition every day on its blog. Suggestions include taking in a sheep race in Moffat (between Carlisle and Glasgow), sampling some 4,000 cheeses at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich (the largest cheese event in the UK), and catching the first few stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire (who knew the Tour started in Northern England?).
It’s all part of its “hotels with personality” campaign, which aims to celebrate the unique story behind each of the brand’s 276 properties in the UK. In addition to rebranding around this vision, Best Western had to improve its customer experience to live up to its brand promise. But getting support from independent hotel owners and operators to fund its ambitious customer experience strategy wasn’t easy. To win support, the brand had to:
Gradually build credibility. Instead of winning support for the entire strategy at once, Best Western tackled some easy changes first, including redesigning its website and improving its internal communications to make them consistent with the new "hotels with personality" vision. Best Western also ran a TV ad campaign featuring hotel employees highlighting the individuality of each hotel. The result was that its hotel owners and employees felt a renewed sense of pride in Best Western as a brand, not just a logo, and confidence in the customer experience strategy. It certainly didn't hurt that the TV campaign drove a year-on-year sales increase of 30% — the highest increase in Best Western Great Britain's history.