The Brick-And-Mortar Renaissance

Peter Sheldon

Since the 1970’s, retail stores have slowly undergone a digital evolution. POS systems replaced cash registers, credit cards became the payment norm, and security tags reminded shoppers to pay. Despite these changes, the fundamentals of the customer shopping experience remained unchanged: We still pick up products, ponder a decision, and either leave empty-handed or wait in line to pay.

However, in the digitally connected store of 2012, big changes are underway. Fixed checkout aisles and cash registers are being replaced by smartphone-wielding store associates who now take the checkout to the customer. Furthermore, the smartphone generation performs self-assisted checkouts directly from their phones while sleek new in-store touch-screens allow them to experience products without opening the box or removing the coat hanger.

Welcome to the brick-and-mortar renaissance.

In my new report, The Digitization of the In-Store Experience, I take a detailed look at the digital transformation underway at retailers across the US and Europe, including:

  • The technologies being adopted. Retailers such as Lowe’s, Gap, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sears are rolling out smartphones and tablets to their store associates and investing in next-generation interactive displays and kiosks. Certain solutions are starting to prevail across retailers.
     
  • The empowerment of the sales associate. Armed with smartphones and tablets, empowered sales associates are helping customers on the shop floor as well as busting checkout queues with mobile POS.
     
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Overhauling Battle Cards (And Transforming Other Sales Tools)

Dean Davison

As part of Forrester’s research into sales enablement, I recently took a journey to “plumb the depths” of sales battle cards. Why?

Sales reps at technology companies tell Forrester that they must understand their competitors if so that they can outmaneuver them during the sales cycle; but, these same sales professionals tell Forrester that, despite the best efforts of product managers, competitive teams, and sales operations, current battle cards are not consistent, instrumental tools that help win more deals.

And thus, my journey into battle cards begins.

During my career, I’ve worked in competitive intelligence at two technology companies, so I already had some strong opinions about battle cards. I tried to set my own views aside, though, and adopted Forrester’s methods of developing a hypothesis and interviewing professionals in the industry.

My initial research looked at the “thing” called a battle card – the layout, structure, and content with the goal of building battle cards that helped sales reps address competitive issues during customer conversations. While testing some really good ideas that came out of the interviews, I could see that the improved battle cards still weren’t enough to meet our objective – routinely helping reps win more deals. 

I turned my attention to the “process” of building battle cards – specifically, how sales enablement professionals identify the competitive issues that merit battle cards, how they work with product managers and marketing teams to create the content for battle cards, and how they deliver battle cards to sales reps. While testing some really good process ideas that came out of the interviews, I could see that even when the groups creating battle cards actively work with sales, their points of view and professional skills are so different, that they miss important details.

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Improve, Transform, Or Sustain: What’s Your Path To A Better Customer Experience?

Kerry Bodine

If you’re reading this post, there’s probably at least one person in your company (you) who’s already working to improve your customer experience in some way.  That means your company’s CX efforts fall somewhere on the curve below.

Improve:  This is where most companies start their customer experience initiatives.  Typically, a small group implements a voice of the customer program, prioritizes customer feedback, and routes it to different parts of the organization so that they can make changes.  Some employees might adopt new customer-focused work practices, but these efforts remain ad-hoc or siloed.  The net result is incremental customer experience improvements.

Transform:  At a certain point, some companies decide that they want to leverage customer experience in order to create a jump in customer loyalty, accelerate growth, and differentiate themselves from competitors.  When that happens, incremental customer experience improvements are no longer sufficient.  The company begins to change just about every part of the business — including processes, policies, technologies, and incentives — to focus on the needs of customers.

Sustain: For companies that decide to take the path towards transformation, this is the end goal.  Once a company puts customers at the center of all business operations, employees need to figure out how to sustain the new ways of working so that they can continue to deliver a great customer experience indefinitely.

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Don't Believe The Hype: 5 Trends to Watch (and 5 to Ignore) for On-line Retail in 2012

Martin Gill

 

Every year at Forrester we take a look ahead at the driving forces behind online retail and make some predictions about how we think things will evolve and we try and identify the key trends to watch or even act upon. This year we’ve done things a little differently.

Sucharita Mulpuru has taken a look at the “Key Trends in US Retail eBusiness” while I’ve concentrated on “European Retail: Key Trends to Watch in 2012”.

Broadly we find similar themes – multichannel, mobile and changing consumer behavior in light of the continually depressing economic condition. But there are some notable differences in Europe. I’ve said this before, but I will continue repeating it – the national, cultural, language and regulatory differences that persist across Europe make European eBusiness a complex beast. 2012 will bring us more in the way of EU strategy papers and directives as the European Commission begins to formulate what their “Single Digital Market” looks like in reality. While we are unlikely to see many changes immediately, the EC’s vision for the future will begin to crystallize. Add to that changes to the e-privacy and distance selling directives that must be acted upon, European eBusiness executives are going to have a busy time in 2012 just keeping abreast of legislation.

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Citibank Moves Boldly Into The Tablet Banking Market

Peter Wannemacher

Hotcakes, you've got some competition: the phrase "selling like tablets" might soon enter the global lexicon. And it's not all hype — though there is a fair bit of that as well. Tablet users in the US are estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 51% from 2010 to 2015. That’s a fast-growing market for firms of all stripes.

As such, the tablet as a touchpoint is becoming a critical consideration for eBusiness & Channel strategists. This is especially true for executives at banks, as financial transactions benefit from the immediacy of the mobile channel, but users often struggle to make these transactions on smaller smartphone screens.

Enter tablet banking.

Forrester has previously identified best practices for tablet apps in financial services, but only in the past year have leading banks rolled out robust tablet banking efforts. One of the strongest tablet offerings we’ve seen is from Citibank.

In my new report, I outline the process Citibank went through in building its own tablet banking strategy, developing an iPad app, rolling it out to customers, and continually improving the service. We outline how Citi:

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The Data Digest: Profiling Digital Natives

Reineke Reitsma

As part of our Demographic Overview series, we just published Digital Natives: A Demographic Overview; previously, we published research on digital dads and digital moms. For readers who haven’t heard the term before, Digital Natives are the individuals currently ages 12 to 17, and they will soon become the most sophisticated consumers in the digital world. Forrester defines Digital Natives as “individuals who have grown up in the age of technology and cannot imagine a life without computers, cell phones, and social networking.”

With the increasing numbers of these Digital Natives, it is imperative that companies get to know them — and the earlier the better. They adopt digital technology faster than older generations; they can’t imagine a life without digital “essentials”; and they combine these digital activities in sophisticated ways.

For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that boys, on average, spend 6.1 hours playing video games per week, and when they have discussions on social networks, video games are the No. 1 topic. Moreover, despite having little disposable income yet, more than one-third of Digital Natives have either researched or purchased a product or service online in the past three months.

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Facebook Or Google: Who Will Win the Customer Engagement Battle?

Fatemeh Khatibloo

Plenty’s been written already about Facebook’s IPO filing yesterday. I won’t rehash the many excellent analyses that you’ve surely already seen.

Instead, I want to take this blog post into thought-experiment territory. I want to think about a world in which Google and Facebook are primary competitors in a mano-a-mano battle—not just for our eyeballs, but for our data, too. For the right, as it were, to be our “digital identity.”

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Over the holidays, my mother—67 year old tech-accepter, Kindle-owner, smartphone-avoider—called me into the office to show me her Facebook newsfeed. “How,” she asked, “do they know that I’m interested in Persian classical music and that I live in Los Angeles?” As I was explaining behavioral targeting and computational advertising, I glanced over at the computer, only to see her click through and order tickets from that Facebook ad.

So I asked, “Do you trust Facebook?” To which she replied, “Of course not!” as she entered her credit card number, home address, and email address for a very spendy concert ticket.

“Do you trust Google?” I asked. “More than Facebook, I suppose,” she answered. “But Facebook shows me stuff I like more often than Google does.” 

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That experience, plus a brainstorm with my colleagues on the Customer Intelligence team here at Forrester got me thinking: What if, as a consumer, you had to choose between Facebook and Google? Which service is more valuable to you? Which will BE more valuable in the future? I decided to compare the competitors (and let there be no mistake—Facebook’s S-1 filing very clearly identifies Google as Enemy No. 1) across the dimensions of Forrester’s customer engagement cycle:

 

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Ways Manufacturers Can Drive Higher Conversion Rates Through The Online Retail Channel

Andy Hoar

In a keyword-driven Web world, brand manufacturers get more than their fair share of Web shopping traffic.  But because most manufacturers maintain a relatively small direct-to-consumer business, they largely rely on online retail partners to convert leads that originate on their websites.  Disintermediated from the final sale, manufacturers often know little about how to optimize the lead referral process that begins on their own websites.

To gain some valuable insight into how manufacturers can help optimize sales conversions downstream, Forrester teamed up with Channel Intelligence, a company that tracks the purchase path of leads from manufacturers’ websites to online retailers’ websites.  Forrester and Channel Intelligence analyzed over 44 million clicks across 150 manufacturer websites spanning two full years of closed-loop sales data (2010-2011).  In our new report, “Top Three Ways Manufacturers Can Drive Higher Conversion Rates Through the Online Retail Channel,” we identify clear best practices from the clickstream analysis.  A sample of key findings:     

  • Be direct and aggressive with “Buy” button language and placement. For example, manufacturers that put the word “buy” first on a purchase button see 53% higher average conversion rates downstream at online retail websites than those that display the word “buy” as the second or third word (e.g. Where To Buy).
  • Be maximally transparent on price.  Manufacturers that display both MSRP and actual retail prices experience a 111% higher conversion rate downstream on online retail websites than those manufacturers that show an MSRP but no actual online retail prices.
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Just Published: The Forrester Wave: Cross-Channel Campaign Management, Q1 2012

Rob Brosnan

Cross-channel campaign management (CCCM) tools face mounting pressure to evolve in the face of continuous, interactive, customer-led dialogue. CCCM capabilities have matured dramatically, but marketers often ask, “Are the applications resilient enough to meet the massive challenges marketing organizations face today?”

Forrester clients can see how much progress vendors have made in “The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management, Q1 2012”. We identified, researched, and scored 12 products from 11 providers: Alterian, Aprimo, ExactTarget, IBM, Infor, Neolane, Oracle, Pitney Bowes, Responsys, SAP, and SAS. Our approach consisted of an 81-criteria evaluation; reference calls and online surveys of 156 companies; executive briefings; and product demonstrations.

We found that marketers need CCCM applications to:

  • Manage a complex array of marketing processes. The campaign design process alone is elaborate – and happily vendors provide strong, yet simple, design tools. Yet CCCM tools also aid marketers in planning (budgeting, spend management, and calendaring), analysis, tactical execution, and reporting.
  • Develop more strengths in digital and emerging media. Although most vendors have extended their applications, many client references told us that vendors need to clarify their approaches to social, local, and mobile applications, and how real-time decisioning can be applied beyond offer management.
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CI Fail: Contextual Relevance Gone Bad

Srividya Sridharan

Rarely do moments like this occur. Last week, while watching the evening news (yes, I still watch news), I was horrified by the continued coverage of the cruise ship disaster in Italy. But, while watching the coverage, I was wading through my mail and opened a direct mail piece (also a rare event) that I had just received. To my horror, I found an offer from American Express to sign up for the Costa Concordia cruise. Worse still, it offered to “immerse” me in a truly European experience. To make things even worse, notice the typo in the headline?

While marketers strive to achieve messaging relevance that would make you stop what you’re doing and take notice, this execution in particular was a case of bad timing and lack of foresight into the implications of marketing campaigns already in flight.

What lessons does this highlight for customer intelligence (CI)?

  • Agility. In our research, we find that direct mail is one of the top channels that CI professionals favor over other channels. Despite CI’s heavy use of direct mail, this faux pas no doubt occurred because of the cycle time between the cruise ship disaster and the direct mail drop.
    • CI Pros: Speed up CI processes to provide greater organizational value. Apply principles of agile development to CI, especially to channels that are not inherently real-time, such as direct mail in this case.
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