The Problem With Tech Vendors’ “SMB Specialist” Partner Certification

Tim Harmon

SMBs have historically led the way out of recessions – and with the impression in mind that this recovery will prove likewise, tech vendors have been clamoring to roll out new “SMB Specialist” partner certifications. The problem is that most of these SMB certifications are meaningless. The requirement for channel partners to achieve SMB certification in many vendors’ channel programs is that the channel partner has to prove that they have successfully sold to and supported SMB customers. Huh? Sounds like the “chicken and egg” syndrome, doesn’t it?

A few vendors, primarily those with large product portfolios, place the appropriate “breadth” value requirement on their SMB channel partners (as opposed to “depth”, i.e., deep knowledge in one particular technology domain) and require their SMB partners to test on several technology domains, albeit at the “101” (“beginner”) level. Note that most vendors, too, provide no path for their SMB-certified partners to reach their top partner tier (most vendors still reward revenue contribution over everything else), so those partners are at a competitive disadvantage to large channel partners that target both the enterprise and SMB markets.

The problem is vendors’ view of “breadth” with respect to SMB partner certification. Cisco Systems’ view of “breadth” is competency across the network and collaboration domains; Symantec’s is competency across the security spectrum; Microsoft’s is office suite and application software; and HP’s is primarily hardware and IT management (at least until it integrates the 3Com channel program).

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The Data Digest: Do Consumers Want To Co-Create With Companies?

Reineke Reitsma

Co-creation and crowdsourcing are hot because companies see these social technologies as a tool to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways and at the same time benefit from their involvement in the design and development of products. In a recently published report, “US Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators,” Forrester Technographics® data shows that 61% of all US online adults are willing co-creators, and they are open to co-creating across a large range of industries.

But interest isn’t equally high across different consumer industries. Below, you’ll find a graphic showing the top five industries that consumers are interested in participating with for co-creation efforts.

Household technology products like PCs and TVs top the list, but CPG, home entertainment (i.e., movies and music), household appliances (i.e., washing machines and refrigerators), and small kitchen appliances follow closely. As usual, men and women have different interests: While women account for 51% of all willing co-creators, they account for a much greater share of the audience interested in co-creating with CPG companies and clothing, footwear, and small kitchen appliance manufacturers.

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The Data Digest: A Deep Dive Into Asia Pacific Consumers' Online Behavior

Reineke Reitsma

Q3 is always a very exciting quarter for the market research team at Forrester. Not only do we analyze, write and publish our annual State Of Consumers And Technology  Benchmark report (which my colleague Jackie Anderson is very busy with at the moment), but we also start analyzing our annual reports looking specifically at consumers' online behavior. In Q3 we will first publish the US version of the document, followed by European, Asia Pacific, and LATAM versions later in the year. These reports are internally referenced as “the Deep Dive” reports, not only for the level of detail these reports contain but also because of the depth of analysis included. What really makes these reports unique is that they're similar in setup, making it possible to compare online consumer behavior across regions and within regions.

For example, our 2009 APAC Deep Dive report shows that Asia Pacific consumers are active Internet users compared with North American and European consumers but that their interests and activities varied greatly.  And within Asia Pacific it's definitely not one-size-fits-all: The following graphic shows for example how the different countries vary in their uptake of media and entertainment activities:

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The Future Of Search Marketing

Shar VanBoskirk

We published today The Future of Search Marketing; thank you to the many marketers and agencies who contributed to the research.  There are a number of evolutions happening to search marketing now and in the coming three years, including:

  • More content and ways to search
  • Richer search engine interfaces and ads
  • Overlap with social and mobile
  • Increased automation
  • Improved analytics

But what stood out to me as the real future of search marketing was that these changes will actually force search marketers to think more like business planners than like channel managers.  Tactically speaking, this means thinking about “search marketing” as not just SEM and SEO but as an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser “get found” (including, perhaps, biddable display media, social networks, and mobile applications).  Strategically, this means focusing more on user intent, your business reasons for using search (and not other media which also drives leads), and fostering collaboration and an awareness of the value of search across your organization.

I've explained these ideas more fully in an article on Search Engine Land.  Or Forrester clients can access the full report here.

Does The UK Need Another Online Payment System?

Benjamin Ensor

I am intrigued by last week's announcement from UK payment processor VocaLink and Australian financial software vendor eWise that they are collaborating to build an online banking transfer payment system for the UK. Online banking transfer systems make it (fairly) easy for online shoppers to authorize payments through online banking by integrating the payment details into their bank's secure online banking site. The customer is routed directly from the merchant's site to the bank to authorize the payment and back again.

In the Netherlands, the iDEAL online banking transfer system has been highly successful. It's now used by some 10 million Dutch online shoppers for about 5 million transactions a month. But the UK's online shopping market is different to the Dutch one in a couple of important ways. Firstly, debit cards can be used to pay online in the UK. Since almost all adults have a debit card, paying online is not a big problem in the UK, unlike many other European markets. Secondly, UK Net users have always been relatively complacent about online security compared with other Europeans. That means that one of the primary attributes of an online banking transfer system -- more robust security -- may not cut that much ice with British online shoppers.

Forrester has long argued that any new payment system needs to overcome three hurdles to succeed: providing a clear improvement over the existing alternatives, driving consumer and merchant adoption, and developing a viable business model for all parties.

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Yandex Taps Growing Russian Search Marketing Opportunity

Shar VanBoskirk

I met yesterday with Preston Carey, the head of business development for Russian search engine Yandex. Full disclosure: Carey and Yandex originator John Boynton are both Forrester alumni, but that’s not the only reason I think Yandex is smart.

 Yandex has tapped into two forces that yet elude the larger US-based search engines (ahem, Google and Yahoo!): 

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Mobile Internet Usage Is Growing At A Phenom Pace ... Why?

Julie Ask

Apps dominate the mobile conversation these days for a lot of well-demonstrated reasons, but with much less fanfare, the mobile Internet — especially the frequency of its users — has taken off. I don’t mean just that ‘mobile Web use has grown’ or it’s continuing to grow at steady pace. No. The rate of growth has jumped dramatically. 

In the six months between year-end 2008 and mid-2009, daily use of the mobile Internet grew from 7% to 10% for all mobile phone users. Once you narrow it down and look at smartphone owners, the growth is even more startling, as you can see in this report. Better handsets, better browsers, and faster networks have remade the mobile Internet from a novelty to a growing, and growing quickly, part of mobile users’ daily lives.

Shopkick - New Mobile Service To Drive Legitimate Foot Traffic

Julie Ask

I attended the unveiling of shopkick's new location-based technology at the Best Buy around the corner from my office today. Here are the highlights:

  • Downloadable application for the iPhone at launch in several weeks; will roll out apps for additional phones.
  • If the application is open, it senses where the individual is and what retail partners or other commercial businesses, such as grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, etc. are nearby. Award points are given when the consumer walks through the door. shopkick installs technology inside the store that acts as a beacon communicating with mobile phones. If the application is open, it will recognize the signal, place the consumer within the store - either at the entrance or a specific department - and award points.

  • Once a consumer is inside the store, the service will award points for browsing and for using the built-in barcode scanner to get more product and pricing information.

The solution is integrated at the point of sale (POS) with the consumer's phone number. With purchases, consumers collect both store loyalty points as well as shopkick loyalty points. Loyalty points can be redeemed for special offers or cash - directly from the application. The value of the points in real retailer dollars will be set by the retailer.

What is interesting about shopkick?

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Reaching SMBs Through SMB Communities

Tim Harmon

It’s a well-established fact that social media is every bit as – if not more – influential for business decision-makers (B2B) as it is for consumers (B2C); Forrester clients can read more here. And SMBs are the most prolific of all business-size segments in utilizing social media and online communities to inform their technology purchase decisions. So where are SMBs turning to for that information? Where can you check the pulse of SMBs’ thinking?

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The Data Digest: Which Music Devices Do People Use?

Reineke Reitsma

The sheer number and types of devices on which people can listen to music have expanded enormously in the past few years. How has that affected people's music consumption? Our Technographics survey data shows that the car stereo is the most popular device on which to listen to music, followed by the home stereo and the PC. About one-third of US adults regularly listen to music on a MP3 player, and 8% listen on their cell phones.

Even though music functionality on phones has been around for about six years, only iPhone owners have adopted it in a significant way. What keeps consumers from adopting new music offerings? A recent Forrester report called "Which Device Offers The Best Music Experience?" uses Forrester's Convenience Quotient (CQ) methodology to assess a sample of devices to evaluate consumer experiences. This analysis shows that every device currently available leaves consumers with a wish list of features and improvements: challenges with installation and setup, an inability to share music, a broken link between music and video, or a lack of logic in the navigation. The tradeoff for consumers is simple: They only adopt something new when the benefits are bigger than the barriers.