I have an exciting engagement next week; I will moderate a session during an annual review meeting of a leading tech distributor with its leading vendor. The topic we’ll discuss is the cloudy future of our industry and what that could mean for the roles and responsibilities of vendors, distributors, and resellers. I’ll have a presentation prepared, of course, but all analysts operate under the principle of “two ears, one mouth,” so I’ll also expect to hear much insight from both distributor and vendor on this topic — and both parties will be represented by their top executives.
My colleague Tim Harmon and I have just submitted a report that explores this topic, based on a recent survey of 165 executives of channel companies across the world (only 52% in North America). We talked to resellers, distributors, systems integrators, managed service providers, and other channel players — in fact, no single executive was prepared to say that just one of these titles applied 100% to their company. We did the survey in collaboration with the organization Outsource Channel Executives. Interesting facts that we gathered in the survey include the fact that nearly two-thirds of these firms employ applications developers; most resellers are attracted to becoming managed services providers to their client base. Tim also went into some of these findings in his recent Forrester teleconference.
So, here are the title and agenda of my session next week:
The Coming Upheaval In Tech Industry Channels
Diverse forces align to change the business of IT.
With the adoption of more and more devices that can connect to Wi-Fi, it’s interesting to understand the uptake of home networks. Forrester's Technographics® data shows that 30% of online Europeans have already set up a wireless home network, and a further 11% are planning to get one in the next six months. The adoption of wireless home networks has grown in Europe since 2006, while the adoption of wired networks is declining (dropping from 12% in 2006 to 6% in 2009).
Three-quarters of online Europeans with a wireless home network share an Internet connection among multiple PCs, and 17% have already connected their PC to their TV set. Wireless networks are especially popular among families and multiple-PC households: 86% of wireless home network owners have more than one PC at home, and 40% have children living at home.
Ever since I signed my daughter up for a frequent-flier program, she's been receiving at least one credit card offer from American Express every week. Problem is, she's 2. It's unnerving to say the least to have these kinds of offers coming to your kids, but it's not hard to imagine how it happened. In fact, I know exactly how it happened since I had the same issue with my 4-year-old about a year ago — one company shares a contact list with or sells it to another, and somehow nobody filters for age (if that's even in the database, though one would assume it is). And voilà, mail campaigns are targeting your kids.
We started receiving these emails for about six months, about the time we took a family trip to Chicago. Finally, I got fed up and put in a call to American Express, which, to be fair, is not the real culprit here. However, I called, and after negotiating the IVR system (that seemed determined to give me an unwanted download on my account status, though that's a bit off-topic), I was routed to a representative who listened to my problem and expressed genuine shock at the situation, immediately making me feel like there was someone who understood — someONE, not some nameless, faceless database that was spitting out those credit card offers. It put me at ease to the point where I would have felt comfortable if the representative told me she had to mail some forms that I'd have to fill out and return. Instead, the representative asked me to wait a moment while she sorted this out. Clearly, this was not a typical request, so I figured it would take some time. However, after a few short minutes of waiting, the representative came back to tell me that she had submitted the necessary paperwork and that the mailings should cease within a few weeks. She apologized for the inconvenience in a human — not robotic — tone and sent me on my way.
Today, Cisco unveiled its home telepresence solution called Umi (prounounced you-me, get it?). For those of us who aren't familiar with Cisco's use of the term telepresence, it's a term it coined to describe the very impressive (and very expensive) enterprise immersive videoconferencing experience it provides to businesses around the world. In the home, it basically means TV-based videoconferencing.
The home offering is similar to the enterprise version in two key ways -- it is also impressive and expensive. Starting November 14, affluent consumers who really want to connect with family across great distances (and who are either unaware of or uninterested in Skype) can put down $599 and sign up for a $24.99 monthly Umi service fee and become HD videoconferencers. I tried the system in a real home and I'll admit the quality is eye-opening. As is the price. Read more of the details here in this post from CNET, but some of the less obvious points include: video voicemail, video voicegreetings, and the ability to record video messages when not connected to someone else. The camera rests above your TV screen and makes for one of the most believable videoconference setups I've seen (the person you speak to actually appears to be looking at you, imagine that). The whole experience rides on top of the existing video input so that while you watch TV you can see a message indicating a call is coming in. Choose not to take it and it will go to video voicemail. There are nice touches like a privacy-minded sliding shutter over the camera (complete with "shooshing" noise when the shutter closes) that helps you know via the senses of sight and sound that your camera is not on. So go ahead and give the missus a kiss while on the couch, no one is looking.
A Rice University faculty member just published a study on how effective merchants find Groupon. To Groupon critics, it was honey because a whooping 40% of participants wouldn’t repeat the experience.
But here’s the catch and why I’m still a huge proponent of the “group buying” model that encompasses Living Social, Buy With Me, Tippr and now the Yellow Pages and local radio stations and newspapers too: most of that 40% thought the Groupon customers were cheap and tipped badly.
If that’s the worst of the problems, this model may actually be worth much more than the billion-dollar valuations already placed on the space. Here’s why. First, businesses like restaurants can prepopulate the “tip” field. I went to a restaurant in Charlotte called Zebra which has done multiple group buying offers and they include a 15% gratuity in the bill. Any business not already doing that could and should be. Second, and more powerful, is that the group sites could capture information on who is a good and bad customer from the merchant. Every redemption has a unique code associated with it (see image). None of the group buying sites are doing that now and merchants, at least according to the few that I’ve interviews, are keeping track of redemptions in rudimentary excel spreadsheets. The first company to provide a merchant tool that allows the flagging of particularly good and egregiously bad customers will be the winner in this space. By eliminating the “bad” customers from the offer, a merchant is much more likely to experience profitability or service issues that strain these small businesses.
Something amazing has happened to social media in the past couple of years: Overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. We're now at the point where more than 80% of US online users engage with social media - and although there's been some hand-wringing over the fact social media adoption has plateaued at that level, let's keep things in perspective: 80% engage with social media! That's as many people as own a DVD player or use SMS.
This kind of scale gives marketers the potential to generate reach through social media. Sure, it's a new and unfamiliar kind of reach for many marketers - rather than just shouting uniform messages at millions of people, they must engage directly with their audiences and then hope those audiences turn around and talk to and influence millions more users. But as we've proven, this new model of reach can also provide the same kind of massive scale that the old reach models did: Just a tiny handful of Mass Connectors will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.
The eBusiness team at Forrester is excited to announce that we have launched The Forrester Community For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals focused on the key business challenges that eBusiness professionals face every day. The community is a place for eBusiness professionals to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions with each other. Forrester analysts will also be part of the community, helping facilitate the discussions and sharing their views.
The community is open to all eBusiness professionals, whether you’re a Forrester client or not.
Here’s what you’ll find:
A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business challenges.
Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues.
Fresh perspective from peers, who share their real-world success stories and best practices.
Content on the latest technologies and trends affecting your business — from Forrester and other thought leaders.
You might be wondering why this post has nothing to do with Latin American consumers. Well, in addition to my Latin American research, enterprise feedback management (EFM) is a new and exciting coverage area that I will be addressing to help market research (MR) professionals. My goal is to assist you in finding the right tools and processes that will aid you in making sense of all the copious amounts of information that is collected from all parts of your company regarding consumers and synthesize them into coherent, actionable solutions.
What is EFM? Right now it means several things. From the viewpoint of a customer experience (CXP) professional, it is a tool that can be used to assist in developing a systematic approach for incorporating the needs of one’s customers into the design of better customer experiences, or what we call at Forrester voice of the customer (VoC) programs. My colleague Andrew McInnes will be covering EFM, as well, but from the perspective of how CXP professionals can utilize these tools.
For a market research professional, it is also used as a tool, but is not specific to solely collecting customer experience feedback. I see it as an advantage in two main ways.
Successful sales enablement reaches beyond just sales. Marketing functions such as customer and market intelligence (CMI) supply materials to your direct sales teams. This content can significantly improve sales impact if it is timely, relevant, and in-context, which for CMI means:
Timely - the right information available to sales teams at the right time.
Relevant - content that sales teams can easily adapt into customer content.
In-context - framed by the business outcomes that customers use to make purchasing decisions.