If you are in the mobile industry and you've never heard of Foursquare, there is something wrong with the way you keep up to date on new trends. Indeed, Foursquare is one of the most hyped social location services, enabling users to "check-in" to locations in the real world from pubs, bars and restaurants (through to any conceivable location) - sharing them with updates on social sites like Twitter or Facebook, wrapping points and benefiting from potential discounts. Foursquare recently announced it had passed the 1M users mark. The rate of growth is indeed quite strong, bearing in mind the company had just 170,000 users at the end of 2009. According to TechCrunch, Yahoo! was rumored to have made an offer above $80M to acquire the start-up! I am not a financial analyst, but let's say $100M for just 1M users seems high at first sight. So what makes it so valuable and why is foursquare being perceived as the new Twitter? Here are a few thoughts:
- First of all, foursquare is not the only one in town but is probably the one with the most active PR team. It struck some interesting deals with Metro newspapers, with TV channel Bravo, with Vodafone in the UK (on-deck and via SMS promotion) and more recently with even the Financial Times, if we believe business insiders. What makes it quite successful is its entertainment-centric approach. It is quite addictive as it is primarily an interactive game. There are others (not only Gowalla) such as MyTown (a sort of a real-world monopoly), which passed the 2 million active users mark a few days ago!
I just returned home from a trip to Bangkok and Bhutan. Civil unrest in Bangkok kept me from wandering as much as I would have liked. I had a lot of opportunity in Bhutan, however, to wander about and talk to people. As a bit of a background, Bhutan is a land-locked country bordered mostly by India to the south and China to the north. Much of the northern portion where we traveled is covered by mountains, so wireless is the primary infrastructure for communications. The average annual income is about $1,300, so they are not a wealthy nation. They've only been allowed access to TV and the Internet for about 10 years.
A consumer brand might argue that in a country where the annual income is only $1,300 and little infrastructure exists for the import of goods, there isn't much point in marketing -- let alone a digital marketing strategy that includes mobile. Countries like these are opening up, however, and their wealth is growing. Personal care products and Coca-Cola was on the shelves in most of the small shops we passed. In a country where cell phones certainly outnumber PCs and cellular connections (even if prepaid) must outnumber fixed, mobile has to be part of the mix.
Teenagers had cell phones. One of my guides had a Nokia N73 and the other had a Nokia Xpress Music. These aren't dumb or cheap text-only phones. They have high-resolution screens and are capable of music, videos and Internet. (My guide was checking and posting to Facebook DAILY.) Monks had cell phones. Women selling vegetables in open-air markets had cell phones.
I was the photographer at a wedding this weekend. We used the KIN phone to take photos throughout the course of the day - hair styling, make-up, and the event. We also exchanged a lot of messages: "We're running late! Someone else has to go pick up the cake," etc. Here's a quick snapshot of the Web page below.
We saw Nokia do this with with their Lifeblog a number of years ago. The KIN Studio has similarities. I would have to say I was sitting on the fence a bit re the dictated cloud services approach to the KIN photos. Over the weekend, I was happy that I didn't have to say "ok, now sync" or upload them one at a time - I liked that it just happened. Would have been fun for everyone at the event to have one of these phones.
A couple of weeks ago I published a Data Digest on European consumers’ media consumption. One of the questions that always comes up when I present this data to clients is how focused consumers are when they're watching TV or using the Internet. Our Technographics® data shows that consumers aren't focused at all: About 40% of US youth were watching TV the last time that they used the Internet, and a third were texting.
But consumers don’t just multitask across different channels; they also do many different things on the PC at the same time. We asked European consumers the following question: "Which of the following activities do you regularly do at the same time when you’re using your PC (by that we mean that you are combining multiple activities)?" About half of European youth use IM when using the Internet, and about 60% listen to music. Undivided attention is something that's hard to find these days.
I had the pleasure of hosting an IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) workshop, “Building the Business Case for Social Media in B2B Marketing” at our London office this week. There were 12 IT services marketers attending, and we all enjoyed very informative presentations led by Moira Clark, Professor of Strategic Marketing at Henley Business School. Moira has lots of practical experience and did extensive research work for Cisco in 2009. We also heard from DNX Ltd, a marketing agency with several tech vendor clients, as well from LinkedIn.
I certainly learned a lot personally about using social media - there was quite a bit of “hands-on” work: assessing a company’s social media strategy, comparing listening platforms, and launching a community. Here are some of the highlights that I remember most (and consider me an experienced tech marketer now trying to understand the impact of social media on the marketing mix).
As part of a larger project that Harley Manning explained in a recent blog post, I've published a document that evaluated the customer experience at six top Canadian Bank Web sites. The premise was simple: we wanted to test how easy it is for a user who wants to find a checking account at a bank with a local branch that has weekend hours. We also wanted to know the fee structure and minimum balance requirements.
How did the sites perform? Overall, they did poorly, with no site achieving a passing score on our Web Site User Experience Review methodology. All of the bank sites we reviewed provided the necessary content and function needed to complete the goal, but none of them did so in a way that was contextual, findable, understandable, and trustworthy. Specific problems that plagued the sites included missing or misplaced content and function, inefficient task flows, and poor use of space, to name a few.
On the plus side, each of the sites provided a lesson for others to learn from. For example, while National Bank of Canada scored lowest in our evaluation, its page that sets up the application process clearly lists eligibility criteria, the information required to open an account, and a clear list of the steps in the online application process.
Efficient Frontier announced last week its official entry into display advertising with a platform that integrates biddable display with search marketing, real-time bidding capabilities, and the Efficient Frontier trademark portfolio approach to optimization that uses predictive modeling to forecast performance outcomes.
I think this certainly indicates further momentum into the world of biddable display media, and eventually biddable media in all formats. See more about Forrester's thoughts on dynamic media buying and what it will mean for media buying on and offline in the report, Demystifying the DSP.
I think the platform from Efficient Frontier addresses a much needed combination -- that of paid search and biddable display media. But I also think that this platform, competing ones -- like those developed by Vivaki -- and demand-side platforms are in “version 1.” Not a bad place to be at the early stage of an emerging opportunity. But I do expect that all of these tools will refine over the next two years. I think they will continue to add data sources, more inventory, additional and easier to use functionality, better metrics, and better reporting. But v.2 will develop only after advertisers begin testing dynamic media buying and can show technology players what additional depth and breadth they need.
I've just had the chance in the past few hours to really play with the device. I find myself smiling each time a new SMS bubble pops up. I love it. I also like seeing my friends' faces on my phone. I love being able to navigate my content and messages via my friends. Loved how easy it was to set up my email, Facebook, and Twitter. Packaging rocks ... and is recyclable. What is subtle in this device, in my opinion, is how intuitive the UI is. The UI looks and feels similar to others I have seen, but I was able to pick up this phone and use it without reading the instructions.
My colleague Charles Golvin will provide a more in-depth analysis of the device itself.
From a social networking/media perspective, the KIN is a good start, but I hope to see more with upcoming releases, especially around helping people build their social graph. I don't put this burden on Microsoft alone, but on the industry and all handset manufacturers. The content we create needs more meta data or labels. We need logic to mesh this content together and navigate through it. It's great that I can navigate to my friends' status and messages through my contacts (and KIN's UI is a lot of fun). I also want to navigate through my photos and location. Location should be table stakes for photo/status/review (restaurant/bar) content and the logic shouldn't flow in just one direction. Based on my location (simple location or map), I want to see who is nearby or what restaurants my friends liked. Navigating through my friends, I want to see what restaurants they liked. I want to group photos by location. I want to group photos by friends. These are just a few examples. With every product and service developed, one can't have everything. There are cost, time and design trade-offs. I completely understand that the KIN and DROID and others couldn't get everything done in v1.0. I look forward to the next version.
For a track session at Forrester's Marketing Forum at the end of April, I dived into the topic of customer satisfaction. For market researchers looking to set up a customer satisfaction (CSAT) study, much guidance is available. However, it also became clear to me why, despite all this advice, many customer satisfaction projects fail.
Most of the information I found -- or the conversations I had, for that matter -- were around the ‘science’ part of CSAT studies: the methodology and set-up. There are many discussions online about questions like which scale to use, which questions to ask (or not), whether a company should focus on relational versus transactional measurement, or if it's better to conduct a customized CSAT project or use an established method like Net Promoter.
However, in my conversations with market researchers, I found that the success of CSAT projects isn't based as much on science -- although a sound and repeatable set-up doesn't hurt -- as much as it is on ‘art.’ The art lies in understanding the company’s business issues; translating these into a well-structured questionnaire; finding the drivers for success; and later, when the results are in, presenting the results in an actionable format.
Any customer satisfaction project that focuses on numbers misses out on the 'art' element of CSAT. Of course, using a standardized methodology helps the company benchmark itself against its competitors. But what does it mean when 80% of your clients are satisfied? The organization will look at this number and want to drive it up, without any understanding of what the impact on the bottom line will be when the percentage of satisfied customers increases from 80% to 82%.
Here’s some background: For several years Forrester has published annual reports that ranked public-facing bank sites from the perspective of an eBusiness professional. This year our customer experience research team collaborated with our eBusiness research team to create our own grading reports tailored to the unique needs of customer experience professionals. The result is a stereoscopic view of 12 banks (six in each country) from the different perspectives of two professional roles that work closely together in real life.
The reports from the customer experience team dive deep into user experience issues. They grade how well customers can accomplish their goals on bank sites. The reports from the eBusiness team summarize some of these findings and add in a competitive benchmark of bank content and functionality.