“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
The key word I want to focus on here is “perceive.” While business success is viewed by metrics like conversions or average order size, for customers, their level of satisfaction is tied to the sum total of all interactions they have with a company from the first time they click on a link from an online ad all the way to opening and experiencing a product. That satisfaction is based on some rational justifications such as price, but it’s also largely based on the overall feeling customers have about those interactions. It’s that emotional component that can be the X factor in how consumers report whether or not they are satisfied with a brand — and more importantly determine whether they’ll do business with you again.
Think about it, emotions drive needs, wants, and desires and are the triggers that are the basis for most interactions consumers have with a company. Think about something as seemingly mundane as cleaning products. Why do people care about cleaning products? Because maybe they want to have a clean house that smells nice because they’re going to entertain soon and, secretly, they want to leave their guests not with an image of their home, but of how they keep their home. Or, maybe there’s a concern over the ingredients that are in the cleaning supplies that people use because they have young children and want to keep them safe from harmful chemicals. The bottom line is that people bring all sorts of baggage to every experience and that baggage is emotional — even the things that cannot be explicitly stated.
Our team is pretty floored by everything that’s happening in the customer experience space right now. We’re seeing massive changes in technology, which are enabling personal and social experiences unlike any we’ve ever seen. In addition, customer experience is gaining unprecedented importance across the enterprise. We think the combination of these influences is going to make for a pretty spectacular 2011.
Ron Rogowski and I are collaborating on a report that will outline Forrester’s thoughts on what 2011 has in store for customer experience professionals. Among our predictions:
Customer experience will (finally) connect with marketing. If you read my last blog post, it’ll be no surprise that I think there’s a pretty strong connection between customer experience and marketing. For CCOs and CMOs, 2011 will come in like a lion (with tension between their two groups) and go out like a lamb (with true collaboration).
Brands will (wrongfully) rush to abandon their Web sites. With the skyrocketing market for mobile phones and tablets, firms will look to engage users through differentiated experiences on these devices. But in the process, many will neglect a critical touchpoint — the Web — in favor of apps that have less reach.
Quantifies the correlation between a rise in a company’s Customer Experience Index score and the corresponding increase in three loyalty metrics that every company cares about: purchase intent, likelihood to switch business to a competitor, and likelihood to recommend.
Makes conservative but realistic assumptions about the business fundamentals of companies in 13 different industries.
Produces eyepopping projections of increased annual revenue as a result of realistically attainable improvements in customer experience — by industry.
A recent Forrester report "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010" forecasts online retail sales during the 2010 US holiday season to grow 16% year over year. Consumers are showing a willingness to spend this season, with affluent consumers driving the most growth. Respondents to our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey, Q3 2010 (US) plan to complete 37% of their November/December holiday shopping through an online channel, up from 30% last year.
Let’s have a look at the post-mortem of the 2009 US holiday season to understand what is really important to customers: In spite of the economic slowdown last year, nearly three-quarters of US online holiday buyers maintained or increased their spending in the online channel compared with 2008. Online holiday buyers are buying more online for the same reasons that the online channel is a successful and growing component of retail in general: convenience, selection, and price.
If you’re reading this post, you’re someone who cares about customer experience. You might even be one of the professionals who works in the field of customer experience full-time.
So I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you occasionally get the question, “What is ‘customer experience?’”
Now maybe when you’re asked that question, it isn’t phrased so directly (or politely). For example, I get asked, “Isn’t customer experience just marketing?” And, “How is customer experience different from customer service?” But the bottom line is that people are looking for a definition that’s crisp, useful, and distinct from the definitions of other things that companies do. They are right and reasonable to ask for this — but collectively those of us who work to improve customer experience have failed to answer them.
I mean no offense to the many people out there who have tried to define “customer experience.” I’ve read many of the attempts that are out there, and the ones I’ve seen tend to be longer and more convoluted than necessary.
Not that customer experience is an easy concept to define. The customer experience team at Forrester has been debating the definition of customer experience for a while now, and it took us until recently to reach consensus. We now define customer experience as:
“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
We've been saying for a while now -- based on the evidence we've seen in certain European markets -- that online video viewers are happy to watch a significant number of in-stream ads in exchange for access to high-quality content. Today, we found yet more evidence of the same from a study conducted by Turner Broadcasting. Today, many of Turner's TV shows only run two or three in-stream ads each (generally less than 2 minutes of advertising per episode); but the broadcaster found that if it increased the ad load to the same volumes the shows feature on TV (as much as 20 minutes per episode) the number of users who dropped off was shockingly low. The CW network found the same in its own tests.
The bottom line: Get ready for more online video ads. Inventory will grow, prices will fall (at least somewhat), and overall online video ad spending will grow dramatically.
(As a side note, The New York Times' article in which this research is published takes aim at Hulu for hoping to "lighten up" the amount of advertising users see and repeats Hulu's accurate claim that it has less than half as much advertising as the same shows on TV -- which is ironic, given that in my anecdotal experience Hulu has been more aggressive than any other US online video site in pushing more ads into its content; most of the ad breaks I see on Hulu these days contain two ads.)
Amazon today launched a localized site for Italy, its first new international offering since acquiring Joyo back in 2004 (Amazon’s UK and Germany sites were launched in 1998, France and Japan in 2000 -- the Canada site came in 2002. Full timeline available here). According to today's press release, the new offering has more categories than any new Amazon Web site has ever launched with -- not surprising given the six years that have elapsed since the last international launch.
As part of its new offering, Amazon is pushing its selection of “hard-to-find Italian language items” to cater to local consumer needs -- indeed, Amazon has tended to excel in its localized offerings, ranging from its varied payment methods by country to its semi-localized categories (note the “Auto and Motorcycle” category on the German Web site or the “DIY” link on the UK one).
Amazon’s choice of European markets mirrors many US online retailers’ expansion into Europe. Of the top 50 online retailers in the US, some 19 operate dedicated transactional Web sites for the UK, 14 operate sites for Germany, 12 for France and 14 in Italy. Less than 10 operate eCommerce sites localized for Spain. See the graphic from our recently published Establishing A Global Online Retail Footprint below.
No, I’m not Australian . . . at Forrester, "boomerangs" are analysts that, after leaving the research team for a stint in the "real world," have decided to re-join. Clients and fellow analysts value the experience we "boomerangs" have built as marketers and the pragmatic outlook we always bring to the table. As for me, I am a bit of an anomaly, as this is the second time that I am back at Forrester. My 20-year career as a marketer can be roughly split in two phases: first, the CPG marketing and strategy roles for brands like Ferrero, L’Oreal, and Johnson&Johnson; then, my digital marketing phase, which recently closed with more than four years at Google.
I would like to think that I am now entering a new phase by helping organizations understand the key role that marketing can play in shaping the way they navigate markets and customers that are constantly affected by the adoption of new technologies. Quite an ambitious scope, so to make sure that I stay relevant and deliver actionable research and advice, I have decided to launch this blog to start a dialogue with CMOs and Marketing Leaders on what’s keeping them up at night and how we can help them.
Coverage areas and topics I’m interested in.
As I type this, I am in the process of writing research on the following areas (please note that links are to reports that are only accessible by clients):
I’ll primarily focus on helping marketers redefine brand loyalty and the role that it plays in the Customer Life Cycle.
Target was just named the "2010 Mobile Retailer of the Year" by Mobile Commerce Daily (see article). Hard to believe eBay wasn't in the top three with their anticipated $1.5B revenue on the mobile channel this year, but they won last year. This speaks to the fact that it isn't just about revenue. In fact, among companies we've surveyed, offering convenient services to customers to engage them more, improve satisfaction and loyalty, etc. top the list of near-term objectives. If the services aren't convenient (see research), consumers will not adopt and use the services. If this doesn't happen, companies won't see the revenue growth or cost savings they are anticipating.
One of the top questions I get from clients is, "Who is best in class?" Any of these three retailers could take that honor. What really impresses me about Target is their breadth of innovative services, the quality of the experience, and to top it off . . . they sell to mainstream America. My favorite service: building a shopping list with the bar-code-scanning technology. Remember that example we've all heard about the smart refrigerator? You remove and throw the empty milk carton out, and "milk" is automatically added to your shopping list. This doesn't do that exactly, but it comes closer than any other application I know. There is also tremendous consistency in experience from online to mobile Web to the applications -- at times, it is so good that it's indistinguishable.
On the surface, this argument pits agency against agency. But I think the issue goes much deeper: the growing intersection — and tension — between customer experience and marketing. Here’s how I see the landscape:
Neither customer experience nor marketing are going away. Customer experience is gaining importance in companies — we can see this in the rise of the chief customer officer (CCO) role, which several years ago was virtually nonexistent. But the rise of one discipline doesn’t mean the complete and utter downfall of the other. Even companies like Apple and Zappos — the poster children for great customer experiences — advertise.