Allstate’s Acquisition Of esurance: The Start Of Something Bigger For Ebiz Teams?

Ellen Carney

I got jolt this morning, and it wasn’t from my coffee.  The headlines in my morning insurance news push were all about  last night's announcement that Allstate was acquiring esurance and an agency sibling, Answer Financial for $1 billion (  Along with the fact that esurance itself has gone to market with what every ebusiness executive has stated as the big strategy over the near-term—giving the customer the choice in how they want to engage with its new “Technology When You Want It, People When You Don’t”  tagline—this deal could well be the start of a more interesting trend:  a bigger wave of M&A among Tier 1 carriers.

This news was especially tantalizing because we just wrapped up a series of interviews with insurance thought leaders to get a perspective for how the insurance industry was going to look in 2020.   We wanted to understand how these changes were going to impact the jobs of ebiz executives in insurance.  This is what we heard: 

Enabled by “big data”, carriers are going to:

  • Shed and acquire business lines to be more specialized and obviously more profitable
  • Make some splashy acquisitions (like this one),
  • Launch new and innovative business models (like a “lights out” insurer that, in exchange for low premiums, policyholders would have to do more for themselves)
  • Challenged by new market entrants who “get” data

All of which have big implications for what insurance ebusiness teams will be challenged to do.  Look for our thoughts on what 2020 is going to mean later this quarter.

A New Pair Of Eyes On CI Services

Fatemeh Khatibloo


Dave Frankland is an analyst’s analyst: a critical and perceptive forward-thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of customer intelligence services and strategy. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he has taken over as our Research Director, with the mandate to oversee all research and ensure that we are as relevant and consistent as possible across the team.

Of course, that left some pretty sizable shoes to fill in our team’s research agenda. Now, maybe I’m a little TOO fond of a challenge, but I raised my hand and asked to be considered for the position.

I’m tremendously honored to announce that, effective immediately, I’ll be taking over Dave’s coverage of CI services (agencies, MSPs, data providers and consultants).

My first report in this new role will provide an assessment of alternate vendors to the recent Database MSP Wave. Then, keep an eye out for a forward-looking analysis of what we’re calling the “Personal Data Cloud.” Future reports will look at outsourcing versus insourcing, vendor selection processes, and the changing role of customer intelligence in traditionally non-CI-driven agencies.

I’m looking very forward to getting to know many of you better and to exploring the changing face of the services landscape. I invite you to engage with me via our Inquiry and/or Briefing teams and to track me down at some upcoming events:

  • Privacy Innovation Invention: May 19th – 20th (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Merkle CRM 2.0 Summit: June 6th – 8th (San Diego, CA)
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Mobile Services - Failure To Focus On Customer Needs Will Result In a "Miss"

Julie Ask

I saw a story this morning on Mobile Commerce Daily: "Fontainbleau targets upscale, on-the-go consumers via mobile presence." I've been a guest at the hotel for the past day so I can't resist joining this conversation. I also happened to download this application while waiting in line for a smoothie at a restaurant yesterday -- between meetings, of course. Here's a quote from the article:

“Fontainebleau chose to launch this app to enhance the overall customer experience while giving them insight on the resort as well as the surrounding Miami Beach area,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami. “It is an extension of the brand’s commitment to providing its guests with the latest advances in the mobile marketplace.”

First, I'll offer -- I'm just a guest or customer here -- I haven't studied the business, but there are a few disconnects.  

Here's what is working well:

  • Fontainbleau does seem to have a tech-savvy customer base. As I walked through the pool area yesterday, I noticed quite a few iPads, Kindles, and smartphones -- guests definitely have their technology at the pool. And Wi-Fi works at the pool -- well done.
  • The application is promoted well. I noticed advertisements several places throughout the property. It uses a sweepstakes to promote the application with the prizes clearly listed.
  • Beautiful photographs -- this resort is amazing and is well represented by the media in the application.
  • There is a solid balance of content -- eat, shop, play, etc.
  • There was a lot of content re "what to do" nearby.
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What The Education Industry Should Learn From Retailers

Sucharita  Mulpuru

I did two things recently:  I saw Waiting for Superman, and I looked online for educational content/tools for my daughters. In both cases, I was appalled by how difficult it was to find teaching supplements online (and in general). I’m not an expert on education, but I am a parent, and being part of an industry (i.e., retail) that has been transformed by the Internet and has fundamentally shifted how it engaged with its consumers, I think that educators could learn a few things from retailers:

  • The Web can give good teachers scale. One of the challenges of good schools is that there are a finite number of slots, just like there’s finite shelf space in a store. Sites like solved that problem by making the Web their storefront.  This enabled them to sell OPM (other people’s merchandise) and not incur the most expensive investments of stores — real estate and inventory. Why can’t the Web be our schoolhouse, or at least a new one? That way, there needn’t be a cap on the number of people who can, for instance, view a video of an award-winning teacher teaching. Why don’t we use the power of the Web to make talented teachers available to more students like web retailers have managed to make more products available to more people? Why are questionable for-profit universities the only ones doing this?
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Retailers Push The Envelope With Ratings & Reviews

Patti Freeman Evans

Forrester recently released a document entitled “Ratings & Reviews: Q1 2011 Snapshot.” In it, we discuss how eBusiness professionals continue to create value for customers via user-generated product review content.  The next evolution of ratings and reviews should prove to be:

  • More flexible, as a multidimensional approach takes over.
  • More exposed, as social networks connect brands and consumers.
  • More pervasive, as retailers use multiple touchpoints to create coordination and consistency.
  • More strategic, as the information derived from ratings and reviews is utilized across the organization.

Of course, this research document is meant to serve as a snapshot, meant to launch a dialogue about what is happening in the space. With that in mind, what are you seeing in the world of ratings and reviews that wasn’t mentioned here? How are those technologies helping eBusiness professionals succeed? And of what we did highlight in the report, what are some examples you have seen of those being used to their fullest effect?

Read the full report here, and then comment on this post.

Patti Freeman Evans

“EMEA Is A Complex And Variant Region: It Covers Both Poles And Speaks 200 Languages”

Peter O'Neill

This is Peter O'Neill (often the name is not displayed when you get a blog alert). I was in Austin, Texas, last week, meeting Dell executives at their 2011 Analyst Conference. We analysts always compare notes and discuss our impressions at these meetings and we were pretty unanimous this time about Dell’s consistency and clarity of message. Some of my illustrious research colleagues were quicker than I in documenting our impressions, so I’d refer you to Ray Wang’s comments. Colleague Roger Kay even got his blog into! My personal highlight was the fact that the whole event was introduced and moderated by Dell’s SVP and chief marketing officer, Karen Quintos. This is not a given at these events — often I get the impression that marketing is not really part of the vendor’s story or strategy at all. Karen even had a keynote presentation on her plans for the Dell brand and marketing initiatives in 2011 — I have never heard the word “brand” used so often by a tech vendor in the B2B context. Kudos to Karen.

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The Data Digest: Enterprises Also Dip Their Toes In Mobile Apps

Reineke Reitsma

During the past 24 months, the industry has seen an explosion of activity and development on the new generation of Android and Apple mobile phones and most recently tablets. In the report 'Mobile App Internet Recasts The Software And Services Landscape' Forrester estimates that the revenue from paid applications on smartphones and tablets was $2.2 billion worldwide for 2010.

With all this activity and excitement, enterprises are jumping on the app bandwagon to reach customers and bolster the brand. Forrester’s Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010 shows that IT is stepping up its mobile app plans. Forty-one percent of the 2,124 North American and European software decision-makers surveyed in October 2010 said that increasing the number of mobile applications for employees, customers, and business partners was a high or critical software priority:


However, this will not come easy to IT departments. One of the issues Forrester sees is support: Given the rate of innovation at both the application and device/operating system levels, IT likely has to support three to four releases per year. This rate of change will tax a whole range of IT processes from project management to release management and testing. IT organizations should look for external help to build a platform to support their companies’ mobile plans.

DSGI Know How. Do you?

Martin Gill

I’m intrigued by the recent launch of

I’ve known it was coming for a while, but now that it’s here it’s not quite what I expected. However in a way it’s actually a lot better. is, for want of a better description, the customer service portal for the DSGI chain of consumer electronics stores in the UK:, Currys, and PC World. These stores operate in a fiercely competitive but large and lucrative market in the UK and extend their reach into Europe through sister company Pixmania.  In recent years wallet share in the CE sector has been moving increasingly online, with brick-and-mortar stores facing the challenge of competing on price with their leaner, lower-cost online rivals. But despite this off-to-online swing, the group is reporting that Internet sales are down.

I was expecting KnowHow to be its revamped eCommerce operation, its response to lackluster digital sales. But interestingly it has done something different. It appears to be trying to step out of the race to the bottom from a price perspective and is positioning itself to begin to compete on a new axis. Service. An interesting play in what could be considered a commodity market.

However, when you learn that its multichannel sales are up 12%, this may not be such a strange move.

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Our Take: What e-Reward’s Acquisition Of Conversition Means For The Market Research Industry

Roxana Strohmenger

Late last night the market research vendor landscape became a little more consolidated with the announcement that e-Rewards reached an agreement to acquire Conversition Strategies. This is not the first, nor probably the last, move that e-Rewards will take in growing a versatile offering in the market research industry. In 2009, e-Rewards, acquired UK-based online panel provider Research Now, which allowed it to become an online panel provider with global reach. And in 2010 e-Rewards acquired Peanut Labs, which enhanced its panel by offering a social media specialty sample that is recruited and surveyed through social and gaming networks. The acquisition of the Conversition platform EvoListen will allow e-Rewards’ clients to listen and analyze, in a market researcher’s terms, what consumers are saying on social media.

 This announcement is significant for the market research industry because it:

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CORE Lessons From Best Buy, ING And IBM

Shar VanBoskirk

Last week I joined Matt Smith, VP of Marketing Services from Best Buy, Kim Verhaaf, director of Customer Intelligence at ING, and Matt Preschern, VP of Demand Programs for IBM, for a keynote panel: "Marketing Innovation in Action: How Being Adaptive Can Help You Innovate," at Unica's Marketing Innovation Summit.  To structure the panel, I introduced Forrester's CORE framework. If you're not yet familiar with CORE, its our mission that interactive marketers should adopt to help their firms adapt to the next digital decade. See a summary of the topic here or our research on The Future Of Interactive Marketing for a deep dive. 

Smith, Verhaaf and Preschern talked about the efforts they have underway to help their firms customize marketing experiences, optimize decisions and processes, respond to changing market conditions and empower employees and customers to advocate on your behalf. They raised some great points for interactive marketers to consider as they undertake CORE:

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