Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
[UPDATE 4 Sept: I have updated this post to the original draft, which includes specific and strong recommendations to publishers and marketers. They had been redacted, but a colleague asked "What would you DO about this?" so I saw fit to reinclude them. These are my answers; there are no easy solutions, but these are a step towards guidelines. Updates at the end of the piece, in bold.]
Publishers Are Engaged In Self-Harm, With Marketers As An Accessory
You remember when the email spam problem maxed out almost a decade ago? Or when content farms threatened to turn Google search results into useless piles of keyword-slurry? Or peak belly fat?
There should be a word for the moments when the mechanisms that aim to keep our electronic information corridors running well fail.
It’s shaping up to be one of those moments for the content distribution space (and particularly its subdiscipline native advertising, or sponsored content).
You can pity the reader who arrives at an article on many publishers’ websites today; I’m talking about you, Guardian and Forbes, but also you, New York Times and Washington Post. How is the reader to know if the article they’ve come to read is the product of a straightforward pay-to-publish play, an informal “link exchange” relationship, an “influencer” play, an independent opinion piece, or a piece of pure editorial? They can’t.
For the record: The “clear labeling” commandment is a fig leaf. By the time a reader has gotten so far through the article that they’re wondering why it keeps promoting a particular mindset, product, or opinion and started searching for cruft around the article, the trust in the information, the source, and the medium is lost.
Last week, Aetna decided to decommission CarePass, its consumer data aggregation platform. It was initially much heralded; however, this development highlights some of the fundamental problems with the health plan’s early forays into this space. I have outlined these issues in my new report, “The Unfulfilled Promise of Plan-Owned Digital Health and Wellness Platforms.” The report went to publication before the CarePass development was announced, but this decision is not at all surprising and validates many of the fundamental challenges with early platforms identified in the report.
The decision to unplug CarePass underscores the fact that there are lots of hurdles for enterprises when it comes to growing digital health as a business. What’s interesting about CarePass is it actually cycled through several different business models during the course of its evolution – ultimately repositioning the business model late last year to go directly after employers. With this pivot, CarePass essentially became a “bring your own” wellness tool servicing the traditional book of health plan business. This may have been the best approach for CarePass, but it came late in the game. Insurance, as a whole, is going to change dramatically over the next three years — with exchanges, defined contribution, etc. Given the competing priorities and the struggles to gain adoption, CarePass may have been doomed before the final pivot back to the employer. However, CarePass did a lot of things right and the CarePass team should be congratulated for their forward approach to the market.
I cut my teeth as a data analyst helping brands communicate more effectively—building segmentation and targeting models that differentiated contact frequency, offers, and messaging across a brand’s customer base. But in the face of today’s more empowered customers building static scoring models and relying on batch-based campaigns is insufficient to win, serve and retain customers. Today most enterprises rely heavily on technology to help them interact with customers across channels, and as we evaluated in the newly published Forrester Wave: Cross Channel Campaign Management, Q3 2014, brands have several compelling choices.
We identified, researched, and scored solutions from nine vendors: Adobe, IBM, Infor, Pitney Bowes, RedPoint Global, SAP, SAS Institute, SDL, and Teradata. Our approach consisted of a 41-criteria evaluation; reference calls and online surveys of 96 companies; executive briefings; and product demonstrations.
We identified four leaders in this mature, but evolving category. What sets leaders apart?
Depth of cross-channel capabilities. Leaders consistently received high scores in cross-channel data integration capabilities, which includes cross-channel customer identification and centralized response history management. But the purpose of collecting this data is so marketers can make smarter—more customer obsessed—decisions. Not surprisingly then, leaders also receive high marks in areas of interaction management such as cross-channel decision management and real-time analytics.
Today, both Jive and Salesforce announced updates to their customer community offerings. Although their updates do not include any groundbreaking innovations (where is McKayla Maroney when you need her?), I find it interesting that Jive and Salesforce have significantly dialed up their marketing efforts for their external-facing community solutions. Historically, both vendors have primarily focused on their internal enterprise community tools and seemed to be on a gradual trajectory to building out their external customer-facing community products. Today's announcements reflect my position that customer communities are becoming the tour de force of social marketing strategies. In fact, last year we published a Forrester Wave that evaluated the ecosystem of community platform vendors in which Lithium was the leader. In that report, I discuss how brands will increasingly seek out the best-of-breed social depth tools and/or enterprise community platforms that facilitate digital interactions with their prospects and customers — on their owned web properties. In response to this demand, Jive, Salesforce
It’s with great pleasure that I announce the agenda for Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Anaheim, CA, on November 6 & 7. We’re mixing things up this year — new formats for speakers, new hands-on, activity-based workshops in addition to track sessions, and a stellar gallery of guest speakers. And we’ve wrapped all of this up with an overarching theme: “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”
We picked this theme because our Customer Experience Index (CXi) told us to. Seriously. Check this out: According to the latest CXi, the number of brands scoring in the “very poor” category is down to one out of 175. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, these findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts gained momentum over the past year or so, the number of truly awful experiences declined, dramatically. That’s reassuring. Kudos to all the businesses out there that screw up less!
Now for the sobering news: Only 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.
What that means of course is that most brands are clustering in the middle of the curve — they’re not awful in the eyes of their customers, but they’re not remarkable either. Translation: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want to deliver a differentiated experience and reap incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention. You’re gonna have to raise your game.
In his excellent book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande makes a compelling case for the power of simple checklists to avoid issues and mistakes during the decisioning process. Gawande's thesis is essentially this: A consistently applied, step-by-step checklist can be enormously valuable for a range of professionals from doctors to software designers to executives at major companies.
Add to this group the lowly mobile banking strategist.
Depending on the viewpoint of your favorite economist, the recession may be over. But retail growth is far from buoyant in many markets. The UK retail sector shows healthy signs of recovery, while US consumers seem be less confident. There are numerable success stories; John Lewis passed the £1bn online revenue mark this year, while Macys is in its fifth year of double-digit online growth, in spite of a slightly shaky offline performance. But as an eBusiness leader, no matter what your local market conditions, I’m willing to bet one thing.
Your growth targets haven’t gone down.
For many years, growing online revenues has been a core strategy for most B2C firms, and many B2B firms are also riding the eCommerce wave. But as markets become crowded and competition becomes tighter, globalization is an increasingly attractive option for eBusiness professionals. With southern European markets seeing online growth rates in the high teens and even bigger opportunities like Russia and China on the global horizon, it’s no surprise that an international strategy is high on the agenda for many eBusiness leaders.
Right before school started last year I bought my son a new Dell laptop, a Windows 8 machine with a touchscreen. He loves it.
Fast forward to a month ago when our family rented a vacation house. My son brought his laptop along so he could play DVDs on it – online gaming was right out because we had purposefully rented a house with no Internet connection so we could unplug from work.
The first time my son tried to log on he found that Windows did not want to accept his password because he was not online. I’m going to skip the lengthy explanation of why this is not supposed to happen, why it happened anyway, all the things we tried to do to fix the problem ourselves, etc. (Maybe they’ll end up in a different post – who knows?)
Suffice it to say that since the laptop was still under warranty, and the problem seemed simple enough, I decide to call Dell. I assumed they’d encountered this situation a million times and could tell me a fix in their sleep. Well, I was wrong. After talking to five different people (could have been four, could have been six, I lost count after a while) I realized that I had made a mistake and hung up on the hold music.
Since I hate to let an interesting customer experience go to waste, though, I’d like to offer some hopefully helpful advice to the Dell customer service people – because, in fact, we do like that machine we bought from them and would love them to be around for our next laptop purchase. With that in mind, here are my top suggestions for the people who tried to help me as well as anyone else who runs a customer service operation.
Forrester surveys in China show that business data and analytics are increasing as the No. 1 technology priority for Chinese businesses; 55% of technology decision-makers in the country plan to use data and analytics to improve business decisions and outcomes in 2014, up from 43% in 2013. Chinese digital marketers are looking for powerful tools to better understand customer behavior, especially regarding customer acquisition. Businesses in industries like banking and financial services, telecommunications, and retail understand that data and analytics are critical for enabling business transformation — but they have struggled with a lack of data and analytics tools in the market.
The supply side of the Chinese customer analytics market is fragmented and includes a confusing mix of global and local providers. Most customer analytics solution providers started doing business in China in the early 2000s, when the country became much more open to foreign capital. Companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola introduced new marketing concepts and became the first to use customer analytics solutions in China. To serve these global companies, leading analytics vendors like FICO, IBM, Oracle, and SAS successfully built up their analytics businesses and extended them into local Chinese markets. Increasing demand for analytics also compelled local vendors like Alibaba and Baidu to start providing customer analytics solutions in China. My latest report, “The Customer Analytics Market in China,” profiles these customer analytics providers in four categories to ease your decision-making on vendor selection.