Are Marketers Ready To Double Down And Truly Adapt To The Consumer Of Today?

Erna Alfred Liousas

For two days this week, I enjoyed Hubspot’s Inbound 2015 conference. Hubspot is an inbound marketing platform targeting small to medium-size businesses and each year the company holds a conference bringing together thought-leaders, customers, and partners. This 3.5-day event has over 250 sessions spanning a myriad of topics. Conferences provide different perspectives on the marketing landscape, customer success stories, product updates, philanthropic awareness, networking opportunities, and — my favorite — kernels that can be developed into themes with broader implications. I was happy to experience all those elements and walked away with more than a few kernels with broader implications. I’d like to share a few resulting from comments by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Chris Brogan, and Mitch Joel. Let me forewarn you, these ideas may seem provocative, but they make for a good debate and even better research. 

Do Marketing And Sales Become One?

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Coalition Loyalty In The US Shows "Plenti" of Promise

Emily Collins

In May, American Express launched Plenti, a U.S.-based coalition loyalty program with eight partners, including Macy's, AT&T, Exxon Mobil and Rite Aid. These types of programs, which let consumers earn and redeem a single currency across multiple partners, are popular in other areas of the world, but coalitions have historically failed to gain traction in the United States.

Plenti's initial progress indicates that it might buck the trend: It signed up more than 20 million members in its first two months reaching around 16% US household penetration. For reference, established coalitions such as AIR MILES, Nectar and FlyBuys have household penetration rates of more than 50%.

But any decent loyalty marketer knows enrollment doesn’t tell the whole story. Three things, in particular, give coalition in the U.S. a fighting chance:

  • The loyalty program landscape is crowded. Plenti entered the market at a time when companies across industries – from retail to travel/hospitality to automotive – invest in loyalty programs to drive retention, engagement and loyalty. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, consumers belong to an average of nine loyalty programs. The proliferation of branded programs makes it hard to stand out, and it shows: 58% of loyalty marketers that Forrester surveyed in 2015 indicated they were dissatisfied with their loyalty strategy. Coalition programs offer a differentiated value proposition: members shopping across partners experience an increased earning velocity and wider choices for redemption, which boost the utility and perceived value of the program.
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The Data Digest: A New Retail Reality, Boxed Up

Anjali Lai

They say that good things come in small packages – and it seems that those consumers who have signed up with the burgeoning wave of subscription services know this to be true. Today, whether you’re looking for fine wine or baby food, artistic inspiration or masculine essentials, you don’t have to leave your home to get – or even search for – the items yourself; the box delivered to your door may have just what you’re hoping for.

Subscription services are relatively new, but consumer awareness of and interest in the concept are growing. I recently became a customer of Stitchfix – and while I might be among just a handful of consumers who’ve actually signed up, nearly one-fifth of US online adults are interested in similar services. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that interest is particularly high among young shoppers: 

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Through-Channel Marketing Automation — An Emerging Market Consolidating?

Tim Harmon

We recently completed our evaluation of 14 through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) vendors in “The Forrester Wave™: Through-Channel Marketing Automation Platforms, Q3 2015.” The TCMA Forrester Wave was oversubscribed — besides the 14 evaluated vendors, there are an additional 10 to 15 TCMA vendors that we are researching. Obviously this is a very fractured market, even considering the growing number of companies — across B2B industries such as healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, tech, and telecom — now leveraging their channels to amplify their marketing.

Last week, Zift Solutions, a leading TCMA vendor, announced that it will be, in essence, acquiring “semi-competitor” SharedVue — “semi” because SharedVue didn’t qualify its product for the TCMA Forrester Wave. SharedVue has been owned and controlled by The Channel Company, the corporate entity behind CRN (IT channel journalism), Xchange (IT channel events), and IPED (IT channel training and consulting) since 2010. SharedVue’s product is strong in its content syndication core, but the company has done little to expand the product into a broader, fuller TCMA platform involving marketing campaign packaging, digital asset management, digital marketing tactics support, etc.

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Beyond Language & Payments: Website Localization Must-Haves For Global eCommerce

Lily Varon

Long gone are the days in which eCommerce site localization means just translating language and accepting localized payment methods. In a high stakes environment, where a global roll out of direct localized sites can mean millions of dollars of investment, eBusiness professionals responsible for managing international customer-facing websites must localize effectively or risk damaging the reputation of their brands and stifling growth.

Forrester published a report today that outlines seven mission-critical areas to any website localization initiative. Among these imperatives are:

  • Consistent Domain Structures.  The best practice in a domain name strategy for a multinational company is to maintain a strong global brand by using the same domain strategy across the globe. There are four common URL strategies available to firms today: country code top-level domains or ccTLDs (e.g., acme.br), subfolders (e.g., acme.com/br/portugues), subdomains (e.g., br.acme.com), and brand-level global top-level domains or gTLDs (e.g., annualreport.acme). The report provides detailed considerations for each domain convention.
  • SEO-optimized site content.  It is essential to make sure the website’s translated content is easily discoverable for consumers and is positioned to rank at the top of dominant local search engines. eBusiness leaders must understand search engine market share and local market semantics in order to come up on top.
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Survive Or Thrive: Which Will B2B Marketers Do In The Age Of The Customer?

Laura Ramos

Earlier this year Forrester analyzed recent economic and survey data and reviewed the practices of over a dozen companies that have made customer-focused transformations. We found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online than ever before. 

So do B2B buyers

Business buying habits have followed closely in the footsteps of B2C counterparts because, outside of "9 to 5", business buyers are consumers too.  

Together with Internet Retailer, we found 59% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% find buying from a website more convenient.

To better address the changing expectations and omnichannel appetites of these empowered business buyers, B2B marketers need to think about spending their marketing budgets, energy, and resources in different ways. With budgeting season upon us, it's time to make sure your 2016 plans will keep you thriving in the digital age, not striving to keep up.

In recent research, Forrester's B2B marketing research team points out the four big bets B2B marketers need to make.  In this digital age where customer demands and experiences take precedence over all other ways to achieve and maintain competitive advantage, it's time for you to:

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Don’t Plan A Go-To-Market Strategy For 2016; Create Your Go-To-Customer Plan

Peter O'Neill

It’s that time of the year again: The UK has had its August bank holiday; the US is on its Labor Day weekend; the Germans are coming to the end of their summer vacation period (which seems to go on for months because it is staggered by state to minimize holiday traffic); and even the Dutch have stopped towing their caravans up and down the German autobahns!

What now happens is that businesses start their budgeting/strategy cycle for the coming fiscal year. This is often a sort of “call my bluff” game, in which the chief R&D or manufacturing executive promises to invent/make as much great stuff as possible; the chief sales executive accepts the challenge to sell as much stuff as possible; and they negotiate to a common number that culminates in a revenue forecast (ideally one which assumes some percent of growth), which then informs the spending budget for the year.

And, invariably, the sales leaders (with perhaps the marketing leaders) then go offsite and agree on their “go-to-market strategy” for the coming year.

B2B marketers: Beware of this habit!

Your sales organization is now only one of your channels, so it no longer makes sense that it defines your go-to-market strategy. Your company can’t just sit back and decide that you will sell direct to, say, “these 100 (or those 1,000) accounts directly”; the rest will be served by “the indirect channel”; while your eCommerce website continues for those customers who insist on using eBusiness to transact with you. Why?

Because you are no longer in control of your market (heh! were you ever?)!

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Brands In China Have High CX Aspirations But Most Fail To Deliver

Ryan Hart

With recent drops in global stock markets and all eyes on China’s economy, the timing of the China CX Index report couldn’t be more serendipitous. While customer experience (CX) most likely doesn't have a direct impact on all this sudden share volatility, our research shows that there is a strong correlation between CX and revenue growth.

Forrester’s Business Technographics™ data shows that CX improvement is a growing priority for companies in China: 70% of tech and business decision-makers indicated that improving the experience of their customers was a high or critical priority for 2015 and 2016. However, CX Index scores reveal that these aspirations have yet to manifest themselves in actions and — more importantly — results.

Evolved from the inaugural assessment we completed last year, The China Customer Experience Index, 2015 now includes loyalty elements to the mix to gauge how well brands in China are at delivering quality customer experiences that create and sustain customer loyalty. This year, we examined 60 brands across five industries in China: banking, insurance, retail, eCommerce, and mobile device manufacturing.

At a high level, the results of 9,000 customer surveys in China revealed that:

  • No brands stand out as especially good or bad. The good news: No brands ended up in the very poor category. The bad news: none achieved excellent scores either. The vast majority of brands (80%) rated as just OK; 5% landed in the poor category, and 15% qualified as good.
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The Data Digest: Social Media And Social Revolution

Anjali Lai

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect posits that seemingly small changes at one moment in time can result in large, dramatic changes at another. The subtle flap of a butterfly’s wing can trigger a violent hurricane that occurs miles away or days later. Rationally, the idea may seem like a stretch, but in a digital sense, we are witnesses to – and victims of – the butterfly effect every day through social media. A few individuals’ posts online can escalate into a chorus of voices that mobilizes communities and creates new standards. We saw this last year after a homeless man in Boston turned in a backpack and, more recently, when Cecil the lion was killed in Zimbabwe.

Social media has always been a catalyst for bringing people together as well as an outlet where consumers can vent. But when a surge of voices results in change, social media posts are more than ephemeral cybertext. And, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers around the world leverage social media to generate buzz about current events, although members of some countries are more vocal than others: 

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Forrester’s Summit for Marketing Leaders Is Coming To Sydney September 15th!

Michael Barnes

I really cannot believe it’s been nearly twelve months since our last Sydney event. But it’s official, we’re now only four weeks away from Forrester’s Summit For Marketing Leaders in Sydney.

This year’s theme is “Connect, Engage, Deliver.” Why that theme? Well, we know from our research that firms in Australia and New Zealand are prioritizing customer experience, but struggling to deliver results. That’s why we’ve tailored this event around three key topics: how to connect with distracted, empowered customers; how to engage customers once those connections are made; and how to nurture customer obsession as a strategic imperative throughout the organization.

Our agenda is packed with marketing executives from leading organizations focused on customer obsession. Key topics they’ll cover include:

  • Driving brand leadership in the age of the customer.
  • Creating seamless brand experiences across the digital and physical divide.
  • Understanding the emotions which drive CX for your brand and how to create them.
  • Reinventing digital user experiences to define and deliver superior CX.
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