Is It Time For Customer Decision Management?

The essential shape of the enterprise marketing landscape hasn’t changed much over the years. In last week’s Revisiting The Enterprise Marketing Software Landscape, I dissect technologies into the four basic categories of marketing management, brand management, relationship marketing, and interactive marketing. Consumers are rapidly changing behaviors, and marketing as a practice is evolving dramatically, but the technologies that marketers buy continue to come in essentially the same containers.

Notice, however, all of the decision management systems employed across the marketing landscape. From interaction management to online testing to recommendations to contact optimization, marketers are using automated systems to make an increasing number of customer-facing decisions. Viewed from the perspective of those decisions, the landscape of marketing technologies is shifting under our feet.

So is it time for a new take – say, customer decision management (CDM) – on marketing technology?

Why Do We Need Customer Decision Management?

Given that we’re already awash in marketing technology, do we need another three-letter acronym? Yes, because customers are:

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Just Published: The Forrester Wave: Cross-Channel Campaign Management, Q1 2012

Cross-channel campaign management (CCCM) tools face mounting pressure to evolve in the face of continuous, interactive, customer-led dialogue. CCCM capabilities have matured dramatically, but marketers often ask, “Are the applications resilient enough to meet the massive challenges marketing organizations face today?”

Forrester clients can see how much progress vendors have made in “The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management, Q1 2012”. We identified, researched, and scored 12 products from 11 providers: Alterian, Aprimo, ExactTarget, IBM, Infor, Neolane, Oracle, Pitney Bowes, Responsys, SAP, and SAS. Our approach consisted of an 81-criteria evaluation; reference calls and online surveys of 156 companies; executive briefings; and product demonstrations.

We found that marketers need CCCM applications to:

  • Manage a complex array of marketing processes. The campaign design process alone is elaborate – and happily vendors provide strong, yet simple, design tools. Yet CCCM tools also aid marketers in planning (budgeting, spend management, and calendaring), analysis, tactical execution, and reporting.
  • Develop more strengths in digital and emerging media. Although most vendors have extended their applications, many client references told us that vendors need to clarify their approaches to social, local, and mobile applications, and how real-time decisioning can be applied beyond offer management.
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Carrier IQ: When CI Should Be Damned

Did you see the news about Carrier IQ covertly capturing Android users' activities for analysis by carriers? Trevor Eckhart, who analyzed the application, writes:

Carrier IQ software, which consists of embedded software on mobile devices and server-side analytics applications, enables mobile operators and device OEMs to understand in detail a wide range of performance and usage characteristics of mobile services and devices. These include both network-facing services such as core voice and data offerings, as well as non-network-facing capabilities such as music players, cameras and other side loaded media, in order to assist with product and service development and roll-out [emphasis added].

Customer Intelligence is not a spying operation. The promise of CI is not reductively commercial. Instead, proper CI practices help businesses – with their customers' consent – to understand the preferences and needs of their customers. Firms also use CI processes and technologies to determine and enforce an optimal and respectful relationship with customers.

What lessons does the Carrier IQ incident highlight?

  • CI pros have an ethical responsibility to customers. CI pros are customer advocates after all. They cannot truly represent customers unless they also help their employers understand appropriate boundaries for data capture. Helping customers also helps businesses, protecting firms from the risk of public outrage and litigation. CI pros: Help your employers understand when data capture goes too far.
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Four Reasons Why ExactTarget's IPO Helps CI Pros

ExactTarget filed an S-1 last Wednesday, November 23, the first step towards an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of March, 2012.1 The company grew substantially over the past several years and is tracking a 55% growth rate in 2011. ExactTarget now services about 4,600 direct clients and reports $148 million in revenue through September 30, 2011. Congratulations to Scott Dorsey and his team for guiding the company to this point.

How will ExactTarget's IPO benefit CI Pros? The IPO can:

  • Provide additional capital for research and development. The funds ExactTarget will raise through the IPO will help transform the company from an email service provider (ESP) into a full-fledged marketing technology platform. Increased R&D will allow the company to evolve through organic development and acquisitions. Both moves will help it to fill out its cross-channel campaign management and Customer Intelligence offerings. CI Professionals at mid-to-large enterprises should expect to see the company move more aggressively to offer enhanced enterprise marketing capabilities.
  • Enhance attractiveness to partners. ExactTarget's IMH has yet to catch on with heavy hitters in analytics, offline channel management, and marketing resource or operations management.2 The quarterly and annual disclosure requirements on ExactTarget could help clarify the company's plans to potential partners and assuage concerns about future competition. Stronger partnerships will lead to additional IMH applications for CI Pros.
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What The Demise Of Flex Means For CI Pros

Earlier today, November 12, Deepa Subramaniam posted on the Flex Team Blog:

Does Adobe recommend we use Flex or HTML5 for our enterprise application development?

In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development.

In the short term, vendors and marketing technologists using Flex for application development can continue without ripping and replacing their user interfaces. Adobe will donate the Flex SDK to an (as yet unnamed) foundation for future development, while still providing support for Flex and the Flash Builder development tool.

Photo by mugley - http://flic.kr/p/4XfysrHowever, Adobe’s clear emphasis on HTML5 – and lack of a recipient for the Flex SDK – create long-term problems for CI pros:

  1. Slowed marketing technology release cycles. Adobe’s announcement throws a wrench into the development cycles for vendors of enterprise marketing technologies that use Flex, such as IBM Coremetrics, SAP, SAS. At some point, vendors that use Flex will need to incorporate a migration from Flex into their development road maps, pulling resources from other product features.
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Silk's Other CI Concern

David Streitfeld at The New York Times' Bits blog comments on Representative Edward Markey's (D-MA) letter to Amazon. Streitfeld says:

But if you use the tablet to post reviews of Italian restaurants on Yelp, Amazon would merely collect that data, bundle it with the fact that a lot of customers in your community seemed to be favorably reviewing Italian restaurants, and then strike a deal with one restaurant to offer discounts, which it would e-mail to you. Some customers might feel tracked; others might not even notice.

David's example is certainly worthy of consideration. Building a database of targeted offers and triggered campaigns from aggregated browse behavior is one way for Amazon to extract value from Silk. It's clearly a striking example for privacy advocates, but it's not the whole story.

Aside from the Customer Intelligence advantages, Amazon's Silk browser also provides the retailer with competitive intelligence (the other CI?). Amazon can watch for products or product combinations purchased on competitor websites, then optimize its merchandise to match or beat those competitors. Besting other retailers doesn't require it to track individual Kindle Fire users or target them through seemingly creepy direct marketing. Instead it can continue to do what it does best -- optimizing its supply chain and catalog -- without appearing to overstep customers' privacy expectations.

The competitive issues raised by Silk are as critical as the individual privacy concerns. 

Are you a retailer who competes with Amazon? What should CI professionals do to combat Amazon's move?

Kick Out The Tills, CI Professionals

Mike Brown, CIO of Lowe’s, in an interview with Bloomberg on the purchase of 42,000 iPhones as point of sale (POS) devices:

Forget about the competition, we are playing catch-up with the customer psyche.

CI professionals need to follow Brown’s lead. A substitution of tablets and smartphones for cash registers promises both to improve customer experience and to transform face-to-face customer interactions into a stream of behavioral and contextual data. The benefits of digitizing human channels through consumer devices include:

  • Adding clickstream analysis to human interactions. As sales associates interact with customers, their devices can relay clickstream data back to the company’s data warehouse. For example, Pfizer’s tablet program allows it to track doctors’ content consumption patterns during sales presentations. Using interaction management, firms can test real-time content variations to optimize the sales process.
  • Expanding customer data integration options. By using the phones for mobile POS, employees will pull in customer identity. Firms can also add new methods for data capture – such as Bump-style, near-field communications – into its consumer and enterprise apps. As sales associates transfer a shopping list to the customer’s phone, the device can capture and associate customer identifiers and contextual information with the interaction.
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Amazon Silk Is Amazon's Secret CI Agent

The new Amazon Silk promises to speed tablet web browsing. It also provides Amazon's core business with a secret weapon against other retailers. Amazon Silk is essentially a browser that, by default, routes all traffic through a proxy server. Amazon's back end consolidates multiple calls for images, libraries, and cookies into a single request. The proxy can even pre-fetch future page requests by users (think of search results pages).

Is Kindle Silk Amazon's 007?How does Amazon Silk provide a competitive advantage to Amazon? Each Kindle Fire device is registered with an individual who is known to and maintains an extensive purchase history with Amazon. Amazon Silk allows Amazon to collect the users' browse behavior beyond Amazon-owned web properties. Regardless of where customers make purchases and whether those products are digital or material, Amazon can use the data collected to its advantage.

Amazon's new layer of Customer Intelligence permits it to:

  • Improve customer recognition. Amazon can maintain customer identity without facing the problems of cookie deletion or Flash LSOs. Should users access Twitter or Facebook through the browser, Amazon will have access to social identity as well.
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On Marketing Technology, Castles, And Moats

Over the weekend, an experience with Apple prompted me to think about marketing technology’s role in creating economic moats. According to Warren Buffet:

In days of old, a castle was protected by the moat that circled it. The wider the moat, the more easily a castle could be defended, as a wide moat made it very difficult for enemies to approach. A narrow moat did not offer much protection and allowed enemies easy access to the castle. To Buffett, the castle is the business and the moat is the competitive advantage the company has. He wants his managers to continually increase the size of the moats around their castles.

The moat around Bodlam Castle, a medieval castle built in 1385.

Apple’s retail presence is both a revenue engine and a cornerstone of its customer experience strategy. Retail pulls in average revenue of $10.8 million per store for Q3, 2011, generating the highest retail sales per square foot of all US retailers. Importantly, the stores guarantee the company a beachhead from which the company can educate consumers and resolve problems directly. For the quarter, 73.7 million people visited Apple stores.

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The Surprising Challenge Of CI

Hello, everyone. As a new analyst on Forrester's Customer Intelligence team, I'm taking over coverage of enterprise marketing platforms. I'll range everywhere from cross-channel campaign management to interaction management to analytics and optimization tools. 

I'm thrilled to join Forrester. We live in a time of extraordinary change in the way we conduct marketing. Businesses succeed and fail on how they bring the Customer Intelligence role to bear. I have the enviable task of following Suresh Vittal — who's since taken over the leadership of the CI role — as well as Dave Frankland, Zach Hofer-Shall, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Srividya Sridharan, and Joe Stanhope. As an aside, if we meet up, be sure to ask me the story of how Joe lured me to Forrester.
 
Extraordinary times imply that extraordinary challenges lurk underneath. CI professionals face the test of integrating data into a holistic view of customers. Recently in my report "CI Teams: Blocking and Tackling Is Not Enough," I dug into why data integration is such an omnipresent issue. As you might expect, a number of factors -- the explosion of touch points, the staggering amounts of data generated, budget, and skills -- contribute to the problem.
 
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