My colleague John Dalton and I recently published a report outlining our major predictions for customer experience in the coming year. What we envision is perhaps best summed up by the old William Gibson quote: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
Here’s why: As I wrote in a recent post, roughly half of the attendees at Forrester’s three customer experience forums in 2013 said that their organizations are in the first phase of the path to CX maturity (repair). Their priority is — and for the immediate future will remain — finding and fixing broken experiences.
A much smaller group of companies — no more than 10% — say that their organizations are in the ultimate phase of CX maturity (differentiate). In contrast with companies in the repair phase, they'll build on their past success with well-funded efforts that leverage their skills in strategy, customer understanding, and design.
With that as background, we predict that two major themes will deserve the most attention in the coming year.
Companies in the repair phase will fight to advance along the path to customer experience maturity. Companies just starting to fix their broken experiences will find themselves in a struggle that's hard, slow, and increasingly costly. They'll focus on getting key infrastructure in place to assess what's broken, manage a portfolio of repair projects, and measure the results they need to build enterprisewide support for CX.
It's hardly a secret that consumers are rapidly adopting new touchpoints to help them shop.
But the killer question that every eBusiness executive must be able to answer is, how quickly are consumers adopting any given touchpoint and how influential are they in the overall shopping experience?
Touchpoint adoption varies significantly around the globe. For consumers, cost, availability, trust in new technology and convenience are primary drivers of how quickly they embrace new technologies into the shopping journey. But adoption isn't all about consumers. Retailer enablement is also a key factor in the adoption curve. If retailers provide touchpoint optimized, rich, convenient experiences that exploit the best features of each new touchpoint while still supporting the overall brand experience, they are more likely to drive consumer adoption.
There are some great examples around the world for firms embracing new technology to make the shopping experience as simple, easy and friction-free as possible for their shoppers, no matter which touchpoint they chose to use. For instance:
Blue Tomato gives shoppers freedom of choice. German action sports retailer Blue Tomato leverages responsive design to give multi-touchpoint shoppers freedom to pick whatever device they want. The upside - a seamless and consistent customer experience coupled with a lower cost of ownership for a single code base. The downside - more complex code and more testing when they make changes.
We just published our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2013, US. This data-rich report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for consumers’ level of technology adoption, usage and attitudes. Our annual benchmark report is based on Forrester's Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, social media activities, retail behaviors and preferences, and device usage—for ‘traditional’ technologies like TVs and laptops—as well as more emerging technologies like smartphones, tablets and wearables.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. While most Americans are already online, we are seeing major strides in mobile Internet access. In 2013, all generations are connected—81% of the US adult population goes online. But there are still generational differences in smartphone usage: Seven of ten Gen Zers and Gen Yers use a smartphone, but only 18% of the Golden Generation do.
Peter O’Neill here, to tell you: we’ve finally made it! Yes, our Forrester Wave™ evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms is finally published for Forrester clients. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop —and researched, analyzed, and scored them. Lori Wizdo and I, ably supported by reviews from colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek, looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics. Note that we sub-titled the report “Due Diligence Required: These Vendors Are Great At Marketing”. This is not our frivolity: buyers really do need to firstly evaluate their own needs and then select the vendor that best fits that specification.
With Omni-channel excellence fast becoming a customer imperative, retailers and brands alike are rushing to operationalize an increasingly complex set of cross-channel order processing and fulfillment scenarios that are often referred to in aggregate as “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere”. In fact in recent survey, we found that 52% of eBusiness professionals ranked Omni-channel integration as a top technology investment priority.
The path to Omni-channel maturity is far from simple; in fact it requires execution across a set of tactics that span organization, process and technology. Front of mind for retailers is solving the basics such as store pickup, cross-channel inventory visibility, store based fulfillment and endless aisle (in-store) ordering. Today, retailers that have already enabled these capabilities have done so by developing custom applications that integrate their eCommerce, POS and ERP/supply chain systems. However as these capabilities rapidly become the ‘norm’ for the consumer, retailers seek packaged solutions that enable them to rapidly rollout, experiment with and scale these programs.
Enter the OMS (order management system). In our May 2013 survey only 17% of eBusiness professionals identified the investment in an OMS platform as an investment priority, however this relative lack of interest is in fact easy to explain:
1) Many retailers are still in the nascent phases of their Omni-channel journey and have yet to fully map out their requirements. Simply put, these retailers still need to make the connection between the capabilities of an OMS platform and the requirements of their Omni-channel strategy.
We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them. I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.
In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.
The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection
If you work in social media, you've been hearing variations on a theme for the past week: Facebook is in trouble! It's lost young users! It's getting crushed by upstart social networks! Eighty percent of its users will disappear in the next few years!
But as was the case with Mark Twain, reports of Facebook's death are an exaggeration:
That Princeton report seriously misses the mark. Last week, two Princeton PhD students circulated a report predicting Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017. They used epidemiological models to predict that, like MySpace before it, both the rise and fall of Facebook would look like the spread of a virus. But the research wasn’t peer-reviewed, and wasn’t published in any journal, and you can perhaps see why. Facebook itself did a pretty good job of pointing out the limitations of the researchers’ methodology. And I see another problem with this study: The MySpace ‘virus’ hardly mutated in all the years it infected the world, but the Facebook ‘virus’ mutates frequently. One of Facebook’s greatest strengths is its practice of regularly adding new features and functionality to its site; this both ensures it infects new users and also makes sure existing users don’t become immune to its charms.
Last week I spoke with the VP of Sales for a tech company that used to have the hottest product in his market. In housing terms, they used to be an exclusive and much sought after neighborhood, but now the competition has moved in on all sides and sales are down. His sales force is facing a vastly growing number of competitors. Some are much larger and have broader portfolios that give them better presence in customer accounts. They’re getting squeezed and are finding it harder to compete in deals where they used to be the only solution.
Your only true differentiation comes from how your reps interact with your buyers
What’s interesting is that the vendor mentioned above is still experiencing consistent success when his company’s salespeople gain access to executive buyers early in their decision process and work in a consultative manner with those buyers to shape a vision of a solution. When that happens, salespeople are confident discussing the business issues faced by those buyers. They’ve found certain industries that they know well where they are able to do this consistently. They are not getting squeezed by competitors and they are winning. But often, they're chasing deals that competitors started and reps are drawn into an RFP frenzy that chews up time and resources. After all, they used to win these deals, but now they're pretty demoralized and reps are starting to leave.
I hate to admit it, but I need to quote a line from the movie “Beaches”. In the attached clip (its only 4 seconds) CC Bloom, the self-absorbed actress played by Bette Midler, utters a fantastically relevant quote for today’s sales and marketing professionals.
This one quote best sums up the state of affairs in the trenches. Your firm is sending your sales force to talk about your company and not the needs of the people who have the wallets to compensate you. Ulitmately, sales forces are being prepared with a variety of messages about how great your company is (but enough about me) and they are getting a few hours of executive-skill training in a day or two of genric executive selling courses (lets talk about you.). Unfortunately, most lack the empathy of those executives to engage in a converation about the clients real business issues and revert back to talking about things they know (what do you think about me).
What proof do we have of this?
Each year for the past 5 years, Forrester has conducted an executive buyer study comprising of two parts. The first part is a 38 question survey gathering the opinions of executives across the globe in different functions (finance, sales, manufacturing, human resources, IT, etc) and at different levels. We follow up these survey questions with at least 100 interviews with roles that fit our profile to catch the color commentary that really brings richness to the insights.
We recently published an online retail forecast for Asia Pacific, followed by an online forecast specific to China. The numbers are staggering! To give you an indication of the speed at which eCommerce is taking off in China, consider that recent figures from the State Post Bureau of China indicate that more than 6 billion packages were shipped in the first three quarters of 2013 – an increase of 61% from the same period in 2012. Factors contributing to China’s massive eCommerce market and rapid growth include:
The Alibaba Group. Unlike our U.S. and European forecasts, Forrester’s online retail forecast for China includes both B2C and C2C online sales (the other forecasts include only B2C). In China, B2C and C2C online sales are strongly influenced by the Alibaba Group’s websites Tmall and Taobao. Tmall, which became a platform independent from Taobao in 2011, is making news for its unprecedented sales and has a long list of partner brands including the NBA, Microsoft and Gap. Apple made news recently when it opened a store on Tmall in addition to its existing direct-to-consumer site. The Alibaba Group also has a stronghold on the eCommerce payments space with Alipay, which, according to Forrester’s Technographics data, tops the list of preferred online payments among metropolitan online shoppers in China.