North American Banks Continue To Improve Their Digital Services: Forrester’s 2011 Bank Secure Website Rankings

Peter Wannemacher

Forrester’s two recent reports — 2011 US Bank Secure Website Rankings and 2011 Canadian Bank Secure Website Rankings — highlight the incremental improvements banking providers have made over the past year. Overall, scores among US and Canadian banks rose by an average of five points. The biggest gains can be seen in the improved usability of the websites, with big advances in users’ ability to navigate banks’ secure websites. Canada’s six largest banks gained more ground than their counterparts south of the border, with firms such as Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank rolling out completely overhauled secure sites. In terms of individual banks, we found that:

·         Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase take the top three spots overall. Wells Fargo’s secure website is the only one we evaluated that scored above a 90 (out of 100) in the category of transactional content and functionality. In addition, it ranked first or second across all four categories of usability we evaluated. Bank of America earned an overall score of 81 by offering best-in-class alerts and self-service functionality. Chase, meanwhile, had a strong showing with convenient secure website functionality such as multiple bill payment options and solid mobile banking features.

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Strategic Content Management Will Make Marketing More Predictable

Peter O'Neill

 

My first job, writes Peter O'Neill, after university was as a business analyst at Ford Motor Company, assisting an executive who sat on the monthly Project Appropriation Committee (PAC) where investments were approved. I learned to calculate the time-averaged rate of return and net present value for a project, proving it was better to invest in it than keeping the money in the bank. My executive ran an organization called General Services, which in those days (1978) included generating our own electricity within the factory complex in Dagenham, England. Now they take their power from the national grid and the generating plant is no more.

Now this is not a discussion of cloud computing and where enterprise IT will end up. What I most remember from those monthly PAC briefing books at Ford was the marketing project submissions. They also had documented TARR and NPV numbers. They would predict that by investing a sum of money in a promotional campaign (e.g., a special car model, dealer incentive, discounts), their market share would go up by, say, 0.7 percentage points – Ford was the UK market share leader in those days at around 30%, selling mostly company cars to businesses. I often checked out whether or not the predicted market share change actually happened and it mostly did –  marketing was able to quantify its contribution very well indeed. 

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“Cyber Friday”

Andy Hoar

When we think about the Thanksgiving weekend and online sales, we’re conditioned to think "Cyber Monday."  But now there’s another online sales story to report -- Black Friday.

While Cyber Monday saw a record $1.25B in online sales this year, a somewhat underreported story was that Black Friday also set a record by bringing in $816MM– or nearly the same amount spent on Cyber Monday just two years ago.   

Increased Black Friday online sales are being driven by:

  • A behavioral shift among consumers. In 2010, 49% of consumers surveyed after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend said that they shopped less in stores on Thanksgiving weekend because they were shopping online instead. In addition, an increasing number of online shoppers report that they are now pre-shopping online for Black Friday deals.
  • High traffic throughout the weekend. This year, Thanksgiving Day took the top spot for holiday weekend online traffic, but Black Friday finished second -- edging out Cyber Monday by a nose.  Data from Experian Hitwise shows that traffic to the top 500 online retailers increased by 2% YOY on Black Friday to more than 170 million unique visits.
  • The consumer perception that better deals can be found online. 58% of US online adults say that they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago. 48% maintained that they found better values and deals online.   
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Twitter Launches Brand Pages: What It Means For You

Melissa Parrish

Yesterday, Twitter announced the launch of its highly anticipated brand pages. The move is being lauded as the next logical step for the social network in attempting to bring its offerings in line with competitive services for companies -- like the already-launched Google+ brand pages and the perennial favorite Facebook pages. But how exactly will the changes help brands or change the way they interact? 

First, the the pages offer marketers more branding opportunities. A large banner on the top of the page will let you show off your logo or other creative without worry that it'll get lost behind the Twitter stream like your custom background images may on your current pages.  

Second, you'll be able to make a tweet sticky by pinning it to the top of your stream -- with media like photos or videos -- for as long as you choose. 

These features sound -- and are -- good news to marketers who've wanted better tools to create a destination for their audiences on Twitter. But remember, the majority of interaction with your followers on Twitter happens in the stream, not on your brand page. So while these new tools will let you position your Twitter presence better to capture new followers, you still have to have a clear strategy for engaging your followers once you've got them . . .

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The Data Digest: The Profile Of Digital Moms

Reineke Reitsma

Since 2007, Forrester has been advising companies about how to use its POST— people, objectives, strategy, technology — methodology to develop social media strategies that help them engage with their audiences via social media. Since then, social media uptake has grown enormously, and brands now have a multitude of social platforms from which to choose. Before you decide which platforms to go with, do you actually know where your audience is in the social media world?

Even today, when social media usage is close to mainstream in the US, different target groups still show different behaviors. For example, when you want to target moms, you have to understand what makes them tick online.

Forrester’s Technographics data shows that the majority (71%) of US female Internet users are Joiners and Spectators. They maintain their profiles on social networking sites and actively consume shared content online. This shows that it is important for brands to have a website, a blog, videos on YouTube, and a social network presence. It is also important for brands to update the information on their website or social network profile regularly and make it both informative and entertaining.

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What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax Debate

Sucharita  Mulpuru

As the debate around mandating an online sales tax rages on, Forrester remains convinced that 2012 will see no significant national change to the current tax structure.  As stated in my new report, “What You Need To Know About The Online Sales Tax” and a previous blog post around the issue, some are framing the debate in such a way that online-only companies like Amazon and eBay are tax-shirking delinquents; they’re not. Not only are they in compliance with current law, Amazon, who was at one point resolutely opposed to any new legislation, has made concessions to voluntarily start collecting tax and in fact, physical retailers may soon regret their staunch stances as the balancing act that Amazon avoided around nexus kept them squarely away from physical stores to date.  Now, that may change and create yet another headache for retailers as Amazon reportedly ponders stores.

So what does this all mean? There is likely to be a few more years of heated debate around the issue followed by a number of possible outcomes. eBusiness professionals should stay abreast of situation, but realize that this is not likely to be a game changer for the following reasons:

  • Tax has a negligible impact on online shopping behavior.  In a survey that was conducted in partnership with Bizrate Insights, we found only 8% of consumers said that tax was a priority consideration. Furthermore, only around one quarter of buyers said that the introduction of a sales tax would cause them to switch retailers.
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Google One-Day Shipping + Google Wallet = PIDM, Phase I?

Fatemeh Khatibloo

By now, you’ve likely read a whole host of stories about Google’s reported play at competing with Amazon’s Prime "one-day shipping" program. The crux of it? The internet giant is planning to leverage its local search product to offer consumers a same-day shipping option if they purchase from a participating retailer.

There are plenty of challenges to this business model, many of which are covered here and here--logistics, data sharing, and cost structure are just three key issues that Google would need to tackle head-on to make such a program viable. Nonetheless, it got me thinking... there’s an aspect of this proposed plan that is awfully intriguing from a Personal Identity Management (PIDM) perspective. 

Google could effectively build the first purchase transaction personal data locker. Here's how:

  • In order to facilitate delivery, Google would have to capture transaction data at the product level.
    • This would let consumers maintain "anytime-anywhere" access to their purchase history. Imagine never again rooting around for a receipt to return an item, or trying to remember which size bags your vacuum cleaner takes.
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Facebook, Gowalla, And Marketing On Location-Based Social Networks

Melissa Parrish

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, yesterday Facebook announced its acquisition of Gowalla. The move opens up interesting possibilities for location-based and location-aware social apps, some of which I explored in my most recent, serendipitously timed report on location-based social networks (LBSNs).

On one hand, the acquisition means that the herd of strictly LBSNs is continuing to thin, which means the remaining apps have less competition, so marketers who are looking to play on those platforms should have fewer options with larger audiences to choose from. On the other hand, the move appears to be further integrating location into a user’s total Facebook experience — at once broadening the appeal of location-based social activity by baking location into everything a user does on Facebook and thereby potentially subverting the need for strictly LBSNs by integrating the user value into a larger social experience.   

And so the big question: should marketers get involved with LBSNs and other geolocation applications?

The bottom line is that geosocial apps are still niche, but they’re growing in usage. Since we published our previous report in July 2010, foursquare has grown from 2 million users to 15 million. Twitter — and now even more aggressively, Facebook — has continued to fuse their social offerings with location information; even technology companies like Apple are chiming in with the launch of the “Find My Friends” app. However, even though the user-base numbers have grown quickly, we still find that few consumers are checking in: 6% have ever, with only 2% doing so at least weekly.

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The Unemployment Rate Fell On Friday . . . But Don’t Brace For A Surge In Holiday Spending

Andy Hoar

The US unemployment rate fell on Friday to its lowest level since March 2009 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm). And on paper...that’s a very good thing. 

But before we get too excited about what that could mean for 2011 holiday spending, consider this: The reason the unemployment rate dropped from 9.0% to 8.6% in the household survey was as much due to the fact that 315,000 people gave up looking for work as that 120,000 people actually found work. It’s a big flaw in the way the US unemployment rate is calculated that the rate can actually go down (so appear to improve) when people just stop looking for work. 

(http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/12/02/why-did-the-unemployment-rate-drop-5/).

The reality is we won’t know the true unemployment rate until those who’ve given up looking for work re-engage in the job hunt and fill out that total workforce denominator (at which time the unemployment rate will actually go up temporarily before then finally coming down as we start seeing that recovery).  But we’re not there yet.

The co-reported payroll employment number is a better indicator of job growth because it comes from a much broader and deeper survey called the payroll survey. But for November that number (120K new jobs created) only matched expectations and is actually below the minimum number (approximately 150K) needed to keep pace with population growth in America. So, unfortunately, not much real gain there. And sadly, there’s probably not much to say about a jolt to the 2011 holiday shopping season either.  

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Introducing Engaged TV: Xbox 360 Leads The Way To A New Video Product Experience

James McQuivey

What to do when a failed product concept still lingers, haunting every attempt at injecting it with new life? That's the problem with interactive TV, a term that grates like the name of an old girlfriend, conjuring up hopes long since unfulfilled yet still surprisingly fresh. Gratefully, it’s time to put old product notions of interactive TV behind us because this week Microsoft will release a user experience update to the Xbox 360 that will do for the TV what decades of promises and industry joint ventures have never managed to pull off.

Meet engaged TV. From now on, I will no longer need to plead with the audiences I address, the clients I meet, or my friends who still listen to me to imagine the future of TV. Because Microsoft has just built and delivered it: A single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search. This is now the benchmark against which all other living-room initiatives should be compared, from cable or satellite set top boxes to Apple’s widely rumored TV to the 3.0 version of Google TV that Google will have to start programming as soon as they see this. With more than 57 million people worldwide already sitting on a box that’s about to be upgraded for free – and with what I estimate to be 15 million Kinect cameras in some of those homes – Microsoft has not only built the right experience, it has ensured that it will spread quickly and with devastating effect.

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