15 Minutes Into The Future

Andy Hoar

I often tell audiences that if you want to see the future of B2B eCommerce, look to the present and recent past of B2C eCommerce. Be it personalization, robust search, or targeted pricing, B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals today are closely studying B2C eCommerce for proven opportunities to drive more business online.   

On October 25 at the Forrester eBusiness and Channel Strategy Forum in Chicago, I’ll be highlighting how the best and most innovative B2B eCommerce organizations are incorporating B2C best practices into their plans, processes, and platforms. At the Forum, I’ll be discussing: 

  •  The impact consumerization is having on B2B eCommerce. Because all B2B customers are also B2C consumers, they’re comparing their B2B eCommerce experiences with gold-standard B2C eCommerce experiences from the likes of Amazon. And like B2C consumers these days, B2B customers demand that products and services be delivered faster, less expensively, and more conveniently than ever before. The bar has been raised . . . and B2B companies must deliver.
  • How successful B2B eCommerce organizations are leveraging classic B2C eCommerce principles. Early winners in the B2B eCommerce space have successfully incorporated B2C-like personalization, recommendations, interactivity, search, self-help, and ratings/reviews into their B2B eCommerce shopping experiences. Not everything from B2C will translate perfectly, or even at all, into B2B. But much will. And much already has.  
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The Customer Has An SLA Too

Peter Sheldon

JC Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson is hedging his bets that among other innovations, in-store iPads and iPods will help make his new concept stores a hip place for customers to hang out. Ron is not alone in his mission; Macy's, Staples, Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, Clinique (the list goes on and on) are all in the process of piloting new in-store digital technologies.

However, “hip” is not a business case. In-store technologies must not only digitize existing experiences but, in doing so, must improve upon or completely re-invent them. As I see retail technology concepts like magic mirrors, virtual shelves, augmented reality displays, and touchscreen kiosks, I worry that retailers are getting swept away in the hysteria of the technology and are failing to articulate the value proposition that these technologies offer to the consumer.

Don’t get me wrong; many of these in-store digital experiences resonate well with the tech-savvy Gen Y shopper, but do they make the shopping experience more convenient?

Picture the scene: Mom has 20 minutes to spare on the way to pick up the kids from school, so by the time she’s found a parking spot, she has 10 minutes (at best) left to walk into the store, find what she is looking for, pay for it, and get out again without risking being late. Does she have any chance of meeting her SLA? Probably not, unless she knows exactly what aisle the product(s) she needs is in, whether the product(s) is in stock, and whether the checkout lines are empty.

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Forrester’s New Book, Outside In, Is Released Today!

Kerry Bodine

My coauthor, Harley Manning, and I are thrilled to announce that our new book, Outside In: The Power Of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business, is released today! We encourage you to read this book if:

  • You want to figure out what the heck customer experience really is.
  • You need to make the business case for customer experience.
  • Your company understands the power of customer experience, but you’re not sure where to start.
  • You’ve got some customer experience initiatives underway, and you’re ready to take your efforts to the next level.
  • You want rigorous, battle-tested customer experience tools that have been implemented by companies around the world.

If you’d like to know more about the ideas in Outside In or would like to engage directly with Harley and me, please:

  • Bring your questions to our #OutsideIn tweet chat next Wednesday, September 5, from noon – 1PM Eastern time.
  • Join us for one of two free Webinars on Wednesday, September 19. If you miss us at 9AM Eastern, you can catch an encore presentation at 2PM Eastern.
  • Download the first two chapters of the book for free.
  •  Check out outsidein.forrester.com for author videos, book images, and suggestions on how to go further with the ideas in the book.
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You Are In The Customer Experience Business, Whether You Know It Or Not

Harley Manning

Customer experience is fundamental to the success of every business. For most companies, in fact, customer experience is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return — or defect to a competitor.

Customer experience goes to the heart of everything you do: how you conduct your business, how your people behave when they interact with customers and each other, and the value you provide. You literally can’t afford to ignore it, because your customers take it personally each and every time they touch your products, your services, and your support.

In our new book, Outside In, my coauthor, Kerry Bodine, and I explore the real meaning of customer experience; prove the business benefits of delivering a great experience; and describe the six disciplines of customer experience leaders like American Express, JetBlue, Office Depot, and Vanguard. Our goal is to help readers understand why and how customer experience leads to profits — which it does, but only if you treat it as a business discipline.

Why is customer experience so important?

“Customer experience” is literally how your customers perceive their interactions with your company.

Those interactions occur at each step along a customer journey. That journey begins when people realize that you offer a product or service they might want, then compare your offer to other options. If things go your way, they’ll buy from you. Then they’ll use what they bought. If they encounter a problem, they’ll call for support.

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Making eBusiness Outside In

Carrie Johnson

Today Forrester released its new book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. At the crux of the book is a powerful message for all firms and in particular for eBusiness professionals: We are in the age of the customer. The only way to create sustainable competitive advantage is by being customer obsessed. In the book authors Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine outline how companies can save billions, gain loyalty, and profit from customer experience excellence.

The message and methodologies in the book are essential for eBusiness professionals, who orchestrate the digital experience across touchpoints for customers in many firms. We're seeing eBusiness professionals putting customers at the center of their businesses by shifting from outdated strategies to agile commerce principles. eBusiness professionals are turning agile commerce into a reality by:

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A New Shopping Arena For Consumers

Gina Fleming

For consumers today, online and mobile channels have become an integral part of the shopping experience — for both researching and purchasing products and services.

In their transition to agile commerce, companies must understand how consumers are interacting and using multiple touchpoints to research, transact, and get service. Our recent report Segmenting Buyers: Introducing Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, And Traditionalists examines how three distinct retail segments of US online consumers — Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, and Traditionalists — leverage various channels for their shopping needs and explains how companies can best engage with each segment.

Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 4,500 US online consumers:

·       Super Buyers are the most connected shoppers and buy from many channels: online, offline, and mobile. Super Buyers like to mix and match their shopping by either researching online and buying offline or vice versa.

·       Connected Traditionalists do most of their shopping online on a computer or in an offline store.

·       Traditionalists are the largest segment; they do most of their shopping in-store — although they are also shopping online on a computer. This group has the lowest uptake of tablets and smartphones.

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A Fortune 100 CEO Talks Mobile ... Whoa!

Julie Ask

I was sitting on a United Airlines flight from PDX to SFO last weekend. The usual "Jeff Smisek" video came on welcoming the passengers, providing us with information about how the transition is going and thanking us for choosing United. For the first time in more than a year, I lifted my head from my printed material (no electronics during taxi, takeoff, and landing) to watch the video and listen. He was talking about United's mobile services AND the feature set. Whoa.  

Jeff Smisek has been welcoming passengers on to United flights since just after the acquisition - I think he talked for 6 to 8 months about getting the planes painted with their new logo. Then there was the full merger of the crews and upgrades to the plane interior, etc. I had long ago stopped paying attention . . . like most passengers flying 100x/year, I just want to get where I'm going on time safely, and I bring my own food and entertainment on board.

I just couldn't believe that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company was discussing their mobile services. I have photos from United's jetways that are less than two years old offering push notifications to pagers. Yeah, email and pagers.

Mr. Smisek - I commend you. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have senior level buy-in for their mobile strategy. Seldom, however, does a CEO become such an advocate. I was thrilled to see the video and the associated support. Like all frequent travelers, I rely heavily on my mobile phone for updates and information. Your mobile team is outstanding and has a phenomenal vision for how mobile should serve your passengers and staff. I was happy to see the recognition.

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Culture: Why Your Company Needs Customer-Centric DNA

Kerry Bodine

No matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your customer experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single customer interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your company’s most valuable resource, its employees, to do the right thing for customers. Similarly, sharing customer insights, measuring the results of your work, and introducing customer experience governance programs will only get you so far if your company’s workforce — from your top execs down to entry-level staff members — isn’t ready to embrace new ways of working.

That’s why building a customer-centric culture is critical to customer experience success.

In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer-centric culture through a case study about John Deere Financial, one of the largest providers of financial services to agricultural and construction customers in the US. Like many companies, it had a product and process focus for decades. Then, as part of a recent call to action to become more customer-focused, the company developed a new set of customer promises:

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Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare: How United’s Culture Failed Its Customers

Harley Manning

You’re at home when your phone rings. It’s your child’s summer camp calling to tell you that she never arrived. No one knows where she is.

Make your gut churn? Yes, if you’re a parent — or even if you’re not.

If you were following the news last week, you know that Annie and Perry Klebahn did get that phone call. That’s when they found out that their 10-year-old daughter Phoebe hadn’t gotten off a United Airlines flight to Traverse City, Michigan.  

Here are the highlights of what happened.

Phoebe had been traveling alone. Her parents had paid United a $99 fee for the “unaccompanied minor” service and had every reason to believe that their daughter was in good hands. According to the complaint letter that her parents wrote to United, when they dropped Phoebe off at the San Francisco airport, a United employee put an identifying wristband on her and told her to “only go with someone with a United badge on and that she would be accompanied at all times.” But when Phoebe arrived in Chicago to change planes, no one met her. The little girl reportedly asked flight attendants three times to let her use a phone to call her parents, and they told her to wait. She also asked if someone had called camp to tell them she had missed her flight, and they said they’d take care of it (but then didn’t).

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Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology

Joe Stanhope

Last week Forrester published Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology. The new research couldn't have arrived at a better time; by any standard, 2012 has been a banner year for tag management as the market momentum I wrote about at the end of last year continues unabated. JavaScript tagging is the instrumentation technology of choice for a wide variety of digital marketing and analytics solutions, but managing tags over the long term is an expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone endeavor. Ultimately, tag management systems (TMS) help provide control, flexibility, and efficiency to ensure the efficacy of digital intelligence. Ever since the enthusiastic reception of Forrester's inaugural report on tag management, it's been abundantly clear that deeper and ongoing research on this topic is essential. I've been bullish on tag management for the past couple of years because it's one of the rare technology solutions that truly addresses a pervasive challenge for practitioners. But I'm hardly alone; tag management is top of mind for several other important constituencies:

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