E3 Notes: Gaming Isn't Just About Gaming Anymore

James McQuivey

The future is here, folks, and the gaming industry is the first to get us there. Today I leave E3, the gaming industry's biggest US convention. When all is said and done, roughly 45,000 people will have come through LA's convention center -- most of them as nerdy as you're imagining right now -- to play the newest games, demo the latest hardware, and collectively drool over hyper-realistic zombies, aliens, robots, and other baddies game designers have placed in our digital sights.

At this E3 we have witnessed more advances in living room technology than the cable, consumer electronics, or the computer industry (yes, that includes Apple) have managed to pull off in many years of trying. Let me summarize:

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Entries For Forrester's Voice Of The Customer Awards 2010 — Wow!

Harley Manning

We just finished judging the entries for Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards 2010. Announcing the winners will have to wait until we’re onstage at the Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29. But there is something I want to announce right now: I am really impressed by the entries! :-)

Because I was also a judge last year, I couldn’t help but notice some big changes from last year. Here they are in no particular order:

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Back From Italy

Thomas Husson

I spent some time last week in Italy, where I regularly visit clients to discuss mobile opportunities.

I always try to spend a few hours visiting operators' shops and getting hold of some brochures. The ones below from Telecom Italia are very typical of a certain type of Italian ad...

Beyond this, however Italy is a very interesting market to study. It is wrongly perceived as leading in Europe because of its huge penetration rate — more than 140% — which doesn’t mean much, per se. Put simply, it links to the high ratio of prepay phones and to the multi-SIM phenomenon, in which Italian consumers take advantage of the most attractive tariffs. For example, handset subsidies are not common and were introduced by Tre (greenfield operator Hutchison Whampoa), the operator with the highest postpay market share.

However, Italian consumers are starting to demonstrate sophisticated mobile usage. An example: At the end of 2009, 15% of Italian online users accessed the mobile Internet on a weekly basis and more than 10% were interested in receiving contextualized mobile coupons. I see numerous examples of mobile innovation, and many companies (from media groups to banks) are starting to integrate mobile into their corporate strategies. I am, however, surprised by the lack of a cohesive and consistent approach. Few companies have a clear understanding of how their own customers use mobile services and what their attitudes toward mobile are. That's the first step in assessing mobile opportunities. For example, does it make sense to launch an Android application if you don't know how many of your customers own an Android device? Few companies have defined clear and measurable objectives or have a vision of how they want to integrate mobile as part of a multichannel and multimedia approach moving forward.

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I Have Seen The Future, And The Future Is Xbox Kinect

James McQuivey

It's late, this is just a short note to let you know that today I saw the future and what I saw was so stunning I couldn't go to sleep without telling you about it first. The future is the new Xbox 360 that debuted at Microsoft's E3 press conference today -- not just the improved hardware which ships to stores today and costs the same as the previous hardware -- but Xbox Kinect. This is Microsoft's long-awaited full-body natural user interface (NUI) for the Xbox 360, previously codenamed Project Natal and now branded as Kinect.

Kinect is everything. Kinect is the future of everything. Kinect is to the next decade what the operating system was to the 1980s, what the mouse was to the 1990s, and what the Internet has been ever since. It is the thing that will change everything. Once we've all been Kinected, we will never go back. You'll shop, communicate, chill out, engage, and debate using technology that can see you, image you in three dimensions, and interact with you in ways that are cooler than the most far-out science fiction, yet completely natural. 

I could explain it, I could try, but I won't. Instead, I'll just encourage you to watch the last hour or so of the press conference yourself (though if you follow my link, you may also want to watch the first few minutes just to catch the pre-game interview with Felicia Day -- isn't she adorably nerdy?).

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Marketing To Latin Americans Is A Long-Term Commitment

Roxana Strohmenger

I am excited to announce that my first report that draws from our Latin American Technographics® data — entitled Understanding Latin American Online Consumers— is now available. (For Forrester clients who do not subscribe to our Latin American Technographics data, there is a shorter version of the report that you can access here.) I hope that our readers find a lot of valuable takeaways in this report. One aspect I want to highlight here is that understanding the Latin American market requires a long-term commitment.

Although the Internet has been around for almost two decades, Latin American’s active presence in the online world is relatively new. Our data shows that 58% of metropolitan Brazilians and 53% of metropolitan Mexicans are online at least monthly or more. While these may sound like exciting numbers for developing markets, two caveats stand out to me: 1) non-metropolitan populations will have much lower penetration, and 2) consumers in these metropolitan markets are just starting to familiarize themselves with the Internet — as evidenced by their generally lower Internet activity compared with other regions we cover. However, certain trends, such as the use of social media, suggest ways in which companies can connect with certain Latin American consumers online.

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The End Of "All-You-Can-Eat" Mobile Data Plans?

Thomas Husson

Following AT&T's decision in the US ten days ago (see my colleague Charles Golvin's take here), there's a hot debate as to whether European operators will follow suite and stop their unlimited mobile Internet pricing schemes.

O2 UK announced no later than last Friday that it will stop it and introduce various caps: from 500MB for the cheapest one (GBP25 with 100 minutes and unlimited texts) up to 1GB for the most expensive (GBP60 for unlimited voice/SMS and 1GB of mobile Internet).

According to the press release, 97% of O2 smartphone customers would not need to buy additional data allowances, as the lowest bundle (500MB) provides at least 2.5 times the average O2 customer’s current use. In short, just 3% of customers will have to pay extra.

Other UK operators as well as KPN in the Netherlands and Orange France have shared indications that they will follow suite and that this pricing scheme is outdated. Here are a couple of thoughts:

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The Data Digest: Interest In Mobile Content In APAC

Reineke Reitsma

Consumers in Asia Pacific are the most active mobile phone users globally, but does this usage translate into spending money on mobile services?  Our Technographics® data shows that South Korean mobile phone owners lead in buying content or services for mobile phones. Each country in the Asia Pacific region has its specific mobile content preferences. Ring tones and ringback tones are the most popular service, followed by games and music.

Mobile content buyers are mostly young technology optimists with higher incomes. There are, however, a few interesting exceptions in different countries. One-third of South Korean buyers fall into the 30-to-39 age bracket; more than half of Indian mobile consumers are highly entertainment-oriented; and about 40% of Chinese spenders are highly career-driven.

If you're interested in Forrester's opinion on how this translates to the US, you can listen to the following podcast 'Will consumers ever pay for content again?' by James McQuivey.

Google TV Is A Bigger Deal Than You Think

James McQuivey

It has only been a few weeks since Google announced it would create a brave, new world with its Google TV platform. In all the reactions and the commentary, I have been amazed at how little people understand what's really going on here. Let me summarize: Google TV is a bigger deal than you think. In fact, it is so big that I scrapped the blog post I drafted about it because only a full-length report (with supporting survey data) could adequately explain what Google TV has done and will do to the TV market. That report went live this week. Allow me to explain why the report was necessary.

Some have expressed surprise that Google would even care about TV in the first place. After all, Google takes nearly $7 billion dollars into its coffers each quarter from that little old search engine it sports, a run-rate of $27 billion a year. In fact, this has long been a problem Google faces -- its core business is so terribly profitable that it's hard to justify investing in its acquisitions and side projects which have zero hope of ever contributing meaningfully to the business (not unlike the problem at Microsoft where Windows 7 is Microsoft). So why would Google bother with the old TV in our living rooms?

Because TV matters in a way that nothing else does. Each year, the TV drives roughly $70 billion in advertising and an equal amount in cable and satellite fees, and another $25 billion in consumer electronics sales. Plus, viewers spend 4.5 hours a day with it -- which is, mind you, the equivalent of a full-time job in some socialist-leaning countries (I'll refrain from naming names). 

Google's goal is to get into that marketplace, eventually appropriating a healthy chunk of the billions in advertising that flow to and through the TV today with such painful inefficiency.

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Does Google's 'Sitelinks' Feature Improve Or Hurt Conversion Rates?

Nate Elliott

I don't know about you, but I like the 'extended' search results I sometimes see on Google. I mean the ones where Google, instead of just offering a single link for the top search result, provides you with several deep links into a site. It makes navigation faster, and that's a good thing.

Those extra links almost always show up in organic results, so you may not have known that marketers can actually buy this feature in their paid listings as well. Google calls them 'AdWords Ad Sitelinks.' But -- I'm starting to wonder how well these actually work for marketers. I noticed today that in Google's case study about how Nationwide Insurance used Sitelinks [pdf], Google says the clickthrough rate went up 73% but conversions only rose 60%. The case study isn't clear on whether that's conversions per click or overall conversions -- but it certainly sounds like overall conversions. In which case, the clicks Nationwide got from Sitelinks actually converted at a lower rate than the clicks they got from traditional paid listings.

Now, this is just one example -- and as I said, it's based on my reading of the case study. But if Sitelinks really did drive conversion rates down rather than up, surely that'd be a concern.

I'm curious -- have you used Sitelinks? If so, what did you think of the program's performance -- especially the conversion rates? Let us know in the comments below.

Are Cell Phones The Key To Reaching Latin American Consumers?

Roxana Strohmenger

I am back from beautiful Cartagena, Colombia where the ESOMAR Latin American 2010 conference was held. In addition, last week, I met with media and advertising professionals focusing on the Latin American market in Miami at the annual Portada Panregional Advertising and Media Summit. At both conferences, a consistent theme resonated throughout all the talks — the Internet is a powerful vehicle for Latin American consumers to connect with peers and even companies; however, the digital divide still persists in Latin America.

We find that, on average, 56% of metropolitan consumers in Brazil and Mexico are not online. Therefore, companies are still unable to reach a significant number of consumers through social media tools. Does that mean that if you have identified that the majority of your target audience is not connected that you are on the sidelines and unable to harness the “power” of social media? I think the answer is no.

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