Monday, December 29, 2008

Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media

The Society for New Communications Research announced the completion and availability of the research report, "Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media." Respondents were asked how often they use social media to learn about the customer care offered by the com­pany when considering a purchase. More than 70% reported that they engage in this pre-purchase behavior at least sometimes. Nineteen percent of respondents rarely use social media to learn about customer care and 9% never do.

To assess the potential influence of social media sites on user opinions as they relate to care experience, re­spondents were asked how often they take into consideration the quality of customer care offered when making buy­ing decisions. Eighty-four percent said they do consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes, while 16% said they rarely or never do.

To determine what types of online sites are considered the most valuable sources of information about the cus­tomer care experience, respondents were asked to rate a list of common online information sources. Search engines were rated as very valuable by 29% of respondents, online rating systems were considered very valuable by 21%, and discussion forums were very valuable to 17%. Some respondents also noted that trusted sources include family and friends, word-of-mouth and Consumer Reports. It is interesting to note that some forms of social media are con­sidered of no value as sources of information about customer care.

Those rated of no value include micro-blogging sites like Twitter or Pownce (39%), YouTube (27%), and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (22%). There are only slight variations on this with the respondents under the age of 25 being somewhat less skeptical about the value of social networking sites.

Despite the strong feelings about researching products and brands and customer care experiences online, many consumers are not optimistic about businesses taking note. When presented with the statement, “In general, businesses take customers’ opinions seriously,” less than one in three respondents agreed. Ironically, when asked why they use social media to share their customer care experiences, the most popular answer was “to protect others.” Well-intended consumers are looking for someone to listen, yet openly question if they are being heard.

It should be noted that respondents reported sharing their positive as well as negative customer care experi­ences online. Several respondents commented that they recognize excellence by posting their good customer care experiences online. In terms of industry seg­ments, technology, retail, and travel companies were reported as doing the best job, while utilities, health care, and insurance were least likely to receive positive endorsements.

While much more research is needed on this new topic, in short, this initial study indicates that there is a grow­ing group of highly desirable consumers: 25-55 year-olds, college-educated, earning $100,000+ -- a very powerful group in terms of buying behavior. These most savvy and sought after consumers are using social media to research companies. They will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and finally, they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies: listen, respond, and improve.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Performance of Web Applications – One-Second Wonders for Winning or Losing Customers

A new report by the Aberdeen Group found that for more than 160 organizations that participated in the survey, business performance begins to suffer at 5.1 seconds of delay in response times of web applications. The research also revealed that every additional second of the delay in the response times could cause a decline in page views by 11%, conversations by 7% and overall customer satisfaction by 16%.

The report shows that the quality of the end-user experience is the top performance indicator that organizations are using to evaluate their success in managing the performance of web applications. However, Best-in-Class organizations are four times more likely to have capabilities in place to measure application performance from an end-user perspective as compared to Laggards. The report also outlines that Best-in-Class organizations are more likely to measure end-user experience via passive monitoring while Industry Average and Laggard organizations are predominately relying on internal monitoring of enterprise infrastructure and end-user surveys.

The report shows that 63% of organizations reported that the number of servers needed for optimal performance of Web applications has increased over the last two years. Additionally, the research shows that a cost of new server purchases makes for 21% of total cost of deploying Web applications. However, the research also shows that Best-in-Class organizations are 71% more likely to increase available server capacity as compared to Laggards while being less likely to invest in purchasing new servers.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Most U.S. Companies Say Business Analytics Still Future Goal, Not Present Reality

Two-thirds of large U.S. companies believe they need to improve their analytical capabilities and only half believe they are spending enough on business analytics, according to findings of an Accenture survey. While more than half (57 percent) of companies surveyed said they don’t have a beneficial, consistently updated enterprise-wide analytical capability, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said they are working to increase their company’s business analytics usage.

The survey also addressed the balance between using analytics and using judgment to make important business decisions, and found 60 percent of major decisions are based on analytics and 40 percent are not. The reasons executives cited most often as to why 40 percent of major decisions are based on judgment rather than business analytics were: because good data is not available (61 percent); there is no past data for the decisions and innovation they are addressing (61 percent); and their decisions rely on qualitative and subjective factors (55 percent).

The challenge to moving from “gut decisions” to employing data goes beyond just infrastructure investments. Large businesses also face a glaring human resources challenge, as 23 percent of respondents identified “insufficient quantitative skills in employees” as a main challenge to their company, and 36 percent said their company “faces a shortage of analytical talent.”

The survey also found that institutional hindrances need to be addressed to improve business analytics capabilities. For instance, 39 percent of respondents said that IT capabilities restrictions were a major challenge and 27 percent said there was an inability to share information across organizations within their company.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

By 2013, More than 25 percent of the Content that Workers See in a Day will be Dominated by Pictures, Video or Audio

The popularity of video among consumers will fuel a similar interest in video within enterprises, leading to the severe disruption of existing content strategies, according to Gartner Inc.The proliferation of video within the enterprise will require numerous modifications in content authoring training and procedures, information management strategy and improvements in analytic technologies. Information managers, architects, record managers and content creators will all need to adjust their strategic plans accordingly.

Enterprises that see such growth as irrelevant to their operations risk alienating themselves from customers who start to request video communication services. The typical first uses of video for commercial entities have been for promotion, generating contests where users are encouraged to submit creative or funny videos to compete for prizes or for part of a promotion.

According to a Gartner survey of 800 end-user organizations in July 2008, software for the management of images and video is the fastest-growing segment of the content management market, with just 44 percent of enterprises having such products today but 22 percent intending to install it in 2009.

Gartner believes that the popularity of simple DAM will force a number of different technological problems to be solved, such as the ability to incorporate video simply into other document types. Such uses are likely to be so compelling and the demand for them so great that by 2013, more than 25 percent of the content that workers see in a day will be dominated by pictures, video or audio.

Internet video is also driving interest in shorter bite-size videos. Consumerist expectations are intriguing customers as they see the possibility for improved search ability in rich media as well. The ability to search within a collection of videos, owned or uncontrolled, is an inevitable flare in the content market for the enterprise.

Ultimately enterprise search will subsume video search as simply another format, just as it is doing with audio, and as it did with graphical media before that. Video search will incorporate elements of social networking, social tagging, metadata extraction and application, video and audio transcription and conventional enterprise search to make it possible to find videos.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unified Communications Has Entered the Mainstream in Large Enterprises

Siemens Enterprise Communications announced the findings of its Unified Communications in the Enterprise study, showing strong interest in Unified Communications (UC) in large enterprises. The study found that more than half (53 percent) of large U.S. enterprises surveyed are actively pursuing UC installations. In fact, 16 percent have already installed UC systems and 37 percent plan to do so within the next 24 months. The most common benefits companies expect to achieve are increased productivity and business responsiveness.

Additionally, all groups interviewed perceive UC as highly beneficial in speeding business processes and improving customer satisfaction, also critical factors for staying competitive in a down economy. However, the study uncovered a disconnect between IT staff and end users. Nearly one of three end users (29 percent) said they had "much" or "extreme" interest in UC. Yet when IT was asked to estimate the end user interest, only 21 percent of IT thought that level of interest existed. In fact, among companies who were not considering UC, only two percent of IT staff estimated that end user interest in UC was "much" or "extreme". Conversely, two-thirds of large enterprise end users rank their own company's UC efforts as average at best, with 28 percent saying there was just a "glimmer of hope" or that they were stuck in the "dark ages," further emphasizing the disconnect.

The chief challenges companies believe they face when implementing UC are the need to "rip and replace" and the "all or nothing" nature of UC, which leads to a perception that UC can potentially be difficult and expensive to adopt.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Survey Finds 90 Percent of Respondents Expect to Maintain or Grow Usage of SaaS

Nearly 90 percent of organizations surveyed expect to maintain or grow their usage of software as a service (SaaS), citing cost-effectiveness and ease/speed of deployment as primary reasons for adoption, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc.

Replacement of on-premises solutions and net-new implementations were cited as major drivers of future deployments. More than one-third of respondents indicated plans to transition from on-premises to SaaS. The key drivers cited included total cost of ownership (TCO), and unmet performance expectations with on-premises solutions, in addition to changes in sourcing strategy.

The survey was conducted across eight major countries worldwide in June and July 2008 with 258 qualified respondents completing the survey. Qualified respondents were those individuals within the organizations personally involved in the implementation support, implementation, planning and/or budget decisions related to the purchase of enterprise application software. Organizations participating in the survey were either currently using SaaS, or planned to use it within the next 12 months.

North American respondents showed a greater confidence that their organizations will increase investments in products offered as SaaS or through a subscription model through year-end 2010, compared with those in Europe and Asia/Pacific. Sixty two percent of North American respondents said that they expected new investments to increase slightly and 15 percent said that they expected new investments to increase significantly compared with 49 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in Europe and 55 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in Asia/Pacific. North America was an early adopter of solutions delivered through the SaaS model, with more than 20 percent of respondents indicating use for five years or longer and 60 percent having adopted it in the last three years.

Gartner’s survey found that 37 percent of respondents were transitioning from a current on-premises solution to a SaaS solution. This drive is particularly significant in Asia/Pacific where 50 percent of respondents indicated that they were shifting away from on-premises and India indicated a 70 percent conversion. When asked why their organizations were transitioning from a current on-premises solution to a SaaS solution, respondents' consistent message was that the TCO was becoming too financially onerous. Given the likelihood of reduced discretionary spending in 2009 and perhaps 2010, Gartner expects that these driving forces will foster greater demand for SaaS solutions rather than budgets directed at enhancing — or furthering investment for — on-premises solutions.

Despite the increase in usage of SaaS, most respondents to Gartner’s survey indicated that no policies had been instituted to govern the evaluation and use of SaaS. Only 38 percent of total respondents that are currently using SaaS have a process or policy that guides the evaluation, procurement and deployment of SaaS. The majority of these organizations are based in Europe and North America. While another 30 percent indicated plans to develop these policies and or processes, another 26 percent have no plans at all to address this issue. Ms. Mertz said that the importance of governance mechanisms will increase as SaaS becomes a larger element of a company’s overall sourcing strategy.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Customer Satisfaction on Cyber Monday Exceeds Expectations

Although Cyber Monday shoppers were less satisfied with their online experience this year than they were in 2007, satisfaction is better than it was a month ago, according to a new study from leading online customer satisfaction measurement firm ForeSee Results. The study collected responses from more than 250,000 people who shopped online between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Online customer satisfaction was actually higher on Cyber Monday than it was at any point in November, including over the holiday weekend. Usually the opposite is true: satisfaction levels fall on Cyber Monday as online shoppers fail to find the deep discounts and free shipping offers they expect.

Key survey results include:

--Cyber Monday shoppers were less satisfied in 2008 than on the same day last year. In 2008, Cyber Monday customer satisfaction was down almost 1% from 2007 (score of 75.9 in 2008 vs. 76.6 in 2007 on the study’s 100-point scale).

--Despite the year-over-year dip in online customer satisfaction on Cyber Monday, satisfaction is actually higher than it was at any point in November, a reversal of the recent trend of satisfaction that is lower on Cyber Monday than in previous weeks. The unusual rise in satisfaction over the holiday weekend and into Cyber Monday can be attributed to e-retailers’ unprecedented ability to live up to the promise of deals and discounts that Cyber Monday shoppers have come to expect. In previous years, dips in customer satisfaction on Cyber Monday have been attributed to strain on systems due to higher volumes and unfamiliarity of new shoppers drawn to the site for the first time by a discount or sale. The rise this year may indicate that e-retail sites are starting to overcome these challenges successfully.

--In a down economy, successful e-retailers have more to gain. ForeSee Results’ data analysis shows that on e-retail websites with superior satisfaction scores (over 80 on the study’s 100-point scale), customers are significantly more likely to purchase online and offline than are visitors to sites with subpar customer satisfaction (below 70).

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Losing Loyal Online Customers Carries a High Price

Online retailers must provide a shopping experience more akin to a physical store's if they want customers to increase their spending. These are the findings in a new report by retail industry experts Verdict Consulting for WebLoyalty. With online sales predicted to grow by 129% over the next five years, online retailers have a large commercial incentive if they can apply the techniques used by physical stores to tempt customers to increase their discretionary spend when they shop online.

But - says Verdict - it's not just about boosting unplanned customer spending. Getting the basics right such as easy navigation at the point of purchase and offering more choice and better value for money are equally important for generating loyal customers.

Even so, until sites improve, Verdict calculates that levels of online loyalty are still some 10% lower than in physical shops as we stand today.

According to the Verdict Consulting report, online customers abandon almost a quarter (24.8%) of their shopping carts before sales are completed. This equates to around 95m transactions a year so businesses that employ strategies to prevent shopping cart abandonment have the opportunity to claw back significant potential lost revenue.

The reasons customers abandon their carts range from well-established concerns over giving out their personal financial details, to high delivery charges and illogical or poorly designed navigation of some sites.

But if online retailers can get it right, almost a fifth of respondents (19%) sampled by Verdict said they would be loyal customers if a website was easy to navigate and offered good service and competitive prices.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Social Network Users Less Receptive To Advertising

More than half of U.S. consumers with Internet access use social networking services (SNS), such as Facebook and MySpace, and penetration will continue to grow. According to a new study from IDC, consumers are also spending ever-greater amounts of time on SNS, a fact that has advertisers drooling over the opportunity represented by SNS.

IDC found that consumers who use SNS also tend to visit the services often and spend a lot of time per visit. More than three quarters of SNS users visit at least once a week, and no less than 57% visit at least once a day. During each session, 61% of SNS users spend at least 30 minutes on the respective site or stay logged in permanently, and 38% spend at least one full hour per session (or stay logged in).

There are four major reasons why consumers use SNS: to connect and communicate; in response to peer-pressure; for entertainment; and for work-related purposes. Advertising does not factor into consumer motivations. In fact, users are less tolerant of SNA advertising than the best tolerated forms of online advertising. Ads on SNS have lower click-through rates than traditional online ads (on the Web at large, 79% of all users clicked on at least one ad in the past year, whereas only 57% of SNS users did), and they also lead to fewer purchases (Web: 23%; SNS 11%).

One of the potential benefits of SNS that the advertising industry has discussed is whether peoples’ connections (i.e., whom a user knows or is linked to) could be used for advertising. For instance, publishers could show a car manufacturer's ads to a user's contacts because that user's online behavior has indicated that she is interested in a particular brand of cars. Anecdotally, there has been some indication that this "social advertising" might be more effective than behavioral targeting. However, that idea is stillborn. Of all U.S. Internet users, only 3% would allow publishers to use contact information for advertising.

IDC expects that lower-than-average ad effectiveness on SNS will continue to contribute to slow ad sales unless publishers get users to do something beyond just communicating with others. If the major services succeed in doing so, they will become more like portals, such as Yahoo! or MSN, and they will come closer to the audience reach of the top services. If that happened, publishers would be better able to monetize their SNS.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.con

Monday, November 24, 2008

Retailers Counting on Cyber Monday as Bright Spot of Challenging Holiday Season

People who don’t want to fight Black Friday crowds will have a less chaotic shopping option just three days later. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is expected to be more promotional than ever this year as retailers offer one-day sales and special offers to bring holiday shoppers online.

On Cyber Monday, the ceremonial kickoff to the online holiday shopping season, online retailers will debut thousands of promotions to show what websites have to offer this holiday season. According to the eHoliday Survey, conducted for this fall by Shopzilla, 83.7 percent of retailers will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday, up from 72.2 percent last year. The most popular promotions are expected to be specific deals (38.8%), email campaigns (32.7%), and one-day sales (24.5%). Additionally, nearly one-fourth of retailers (22.5%) will offer free shipping on all purchases.

Cyber Monday, a term coined by in 2005, began after online retailers noticed a trend of people shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Since then, consumers have flooded websites on Cyber Monday and come to expect robust promotions and specials that day.

To get a handle on holiday shopping, office workers won’t be heading to the mall over their lunch hour, they’ll be staying at their desk. This year, according to a BIGresearch survey conducted for, 55.8 percent of workers with Internet access, or 72.8 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from work. The trend of employees with internet access shopping from the office has continued to increase: in 2005, only 44.7 percent said they shopped online from work.

Though slightly more than half of workers will be shopping from the office, some are more likely to make a dent in their wish lists than others. According to the BIGresearch survey, 70.0 percent of young adults 18-34 with Internet access will shop at work. Additionally, men are more likely to shop from work than women (60.3% vs. 51.5%).

Though retailers will be going all-out for Cyber Monday this year, many are also planning to use their websites to drive traffic to stores for Black Friday. According to the eHoliday study, one-fourth of retailers (28.6%) plan to increase online marketing of Black Friday promotions this year. Marketing will include emails about stores’ Black Friday deals (74.3%), mention of Black Friday deals on the retailer’s home page (62.9%) and search marketing (54.3%).

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yankee Group Says Anywhere Is Hot for the Holidays

In a new report, They Want Their Anywhere for the Holidays, Yankee Group identifies connectivity as the holiday's hottest gift trend and suggests electronic devices for a wide range of consumers. From mobile hardware to wireless media players, this year’s holiday buying season will be shaped by the demands of five consumer segments defined in the Yankee Group Report, They Want Their Anywhere:

Actualized Anywheres: These consumers constantly crave connectivity and will be most attracted to integrated free mobile broadband connectivity products, which will allow them to indulge their connectivity addiction on the go. Recommended gifts for Actualized Anywheres include:
--The Amazon Kindle
--The Slingbox PRO-HD
--TomTom x40 GO LIVE

Outlet Jockeys: This consumer segment wants a rich and productive technology experience, both on the go and at home. The ideal holiday gift will offer them the opportunity to do both. Recommended gifts for Outlet Jockeys include:
--Gift certificates for iPhone applications
--Eye–Fi Explore SD Card
--Logitech Squeezebox or Squeezebox Boom Music Players

Digital Shut-ins: These consumers seek to enhance their home hardware, such as HDTVs, with additional services. Recommended gifts for Digital Shut-ins include:
--The Roku Netflix Box/Xbox 360
--SlingCatcher Universal Media Player
--Peek Wireless E–Mail Device

Technophytes: This group of consumers looks for cutting-edge technologies at bargain prices. Luckily, this holiday season offers a plethora of affordable consumer electronic gadgets. Recommended gifts for Technophytes include:
--Linksys Ultra RangePlus Wireless–N Broadband Router
--Slacker G2 Personal Radio
--Asus Eee PC S101

Analogs: Because they have little interest in technology for the sake of technology, these consumers want gadgets that simplify activities they are already doing. Recommended gifts for Analogs include:
--Kodak EASYSHARE W820 Wireless Digital Frame
--Lexmark Z1480 Wireless Printer

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Online Consumers Plan to Spend Less in Stores, But Slightly More Online This Holiday Season

Online consumers intend to spend less in stores this holiday season than last year, The Conference Board and TNS report, but slightly more online. Consumers will be expecting free shipping and deals not available in stores when they shop online.

Even though online shoppers plan to spend less in stores this holiday season, planned spending online is up slightly, compared to the same quarter last year. Online households planning to spend more than $500 in stores declined to 16 percent from 21 percent last year. Those planning to spend more than $500 online rose to 5 percent from 4 percent last season. Those planning to spend between $100 and $499 in stores declined to 57 percent from 61 percent last year, while those planning to spend that amount online edged up to 36 percent from 35 percent last year. Online households planning to spend less than $100 in stores increased to 22 percent from 16 percent last year. Those planning to spend that amount online rose to 32 percent from 29 percent.

Retail and Catalogue Sites Most Popular

This holiday season, books, clothes, movies and toys will be the most popular items on the consumer's Internet shopping list. The most preferred shopping sites are those operated by retail store and catalogue operators such as or, followed by online retailers such as and online auction sites such as

Women shoppers are shifting from retail and catalogue sites to online retailers this year, perhaps in search of better prices. Female shoppers who preferred retail and catalogue sites dropped to 42 percent from 48 percent in 2007, while female shoppers who prefer online retailers have grown to 40 percent from 34 percent last year. Site preferences for male shoppers only changed slightly.

Shopping Habits Differ Among Genders

Consumers are very aware of the cost benefits between shopping in stores and online. Self-identified bargain hunters account for 44 percent of shoppers who made an online purchase in the past three months, the same as a year ago. Die-hard Internet shoppers have increased slightly and represent 17 percent of shoppers. They are the second most common type of Internet shopper. Traditional shoppers, who occasionally shop online but prefer the familiarity of real stores, account for about 15 percent of online shoppers. Last resort shoppers, who buy online only when products are unavailable in stores, rank fourth on the list and represent 14 percent of online shoppers. Lastly, hurried shoppers, who point and click only when pressed for time, represent 10 percent of online shoppers.

Among bargain hunters, men are more likely than women to surf the Internet searching for deals. Only 41 percent of women compared with 48 percent of men are self-proclaimed bargain hunters. Last resort shoppers and hurried shoppers, however, are more likely to be women. About the same proportion of men and women are Internet die-hards and traditional shoppers.

Consumers More Cost Conscious

Shipping charges, which are the most frustrating aspect of online shopping, tend to frustrate women more than men, 47 percent versus 38 percent respectively. The ongoing sentiment among online holiday shoppers is that free shipping, coupons and discount offers would encourage them to spend more online. About 93 percent of women versus 87 percent of men say free shipping would serve as a motivation to spend more online this holiday season. More than 71 percent said special offers and deals not available in stores would boost their online spending, with little difference between men and women. More than 70 percent of women and 68 percent of men said they would be willing to spend more if merchants offered coupons/discounts. In concert with shipping cost frustrations, 48 percent of women say they would spend more online if sites offered free return postage, compared with 39 percent of men who felt this way.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

SaaS Adoption Nearly Doubles

A recent survey by Cutter Consortium revealed that 63% of responding organization are using a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, up from 32% in 2007.

There are plenty of external forces pushing organizations to adopt SaaS: A combination of a higher TCO for IT systems and business applications, along with lower ROI has proven to be a disastrous equation for many organizations that are now confronted with a worldwide economic crisis that is placing greater constraints on operating budgets. The financial challenges are coming at the same time that the competitive landscape is being reshaped by globalization and e-commerce. Simultaneously, the traditional workplace is a thing of the past. Mobile workers need to access corporate data and need to collaborate with their peers, raising a new set of management and security challenges.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Financial Institutions Must Focus on IT Innovation or Hibernate to Weather the Economic Downturn

Financial services institutions must focus on IT innovation for radical change or hibernate to minimize cost and prepare for later action to survive the economic downturn, according to Gartner, Inc. Organizations that choose the middle ground risk wasting their IT budget on incremental modernization for little gain.

Organizations that hibernate are making a conscious decision to prepare for survival by avoiding IT change until absolutely necessary. They take a short- to medium-term approach, keeping their systems running for the absolute minimum cost while building up a war-chest of savings for later use on smart, innovative activities as and when market conditions improve. Gartner defines companies that innovate as at the leading edge of technology and embrace the big bang approach. They develop accurate cost-benefit models that link IT changes to business metrics so that they can quantify benefits and justify the radical transformations they encourage.

Gartner outlined four examples of how companies can embed innovation in their corporate culture and agenda:

-- Re-design branches to sell and advise – Banks must re-learn how to engage customers after pushing many away from branches through telephone and internet banking. With the help of branch automation and solid multi-channel integration banks can engage customers for transactions that add value to the relationship and make the purchase of new products and services streamlined.

-- Extreme but not complex innovation – Use technology to deliver a new level of personalization for the customer. For example, one Spanish bank allows its customers to calculate exactly how much the bank profits from their custom and enables them to donate a portion of those profits to a designated charity. In India, another bank provides easy access to a ‘Do Not Call’ register on the front page of its internet banking home page.

-- Treat customers as innovators via social networks – Customers can answer most of what organizations want to know about them, whether it’s where they shop, how they feel and what and when they want to purchase. Some new financial services entrants such as the social networking start-ups, are trying to leverage customers more effectively using this technology and customers’ increasing acceptance and use of it. The next innovation step will be to bridge the gap between pure social networks and financial social networks (FSNs). FSNs are leveraging social networks to initiate a new form of financial transaction, allowing members to not only share information but to actually start lending and borrowing to each other, cutting out the middle man – in this case the bank.

-- Innovation in payments – Financial services companies are gradually recognizing the role they need to take to transform their approach to payments if they are to maintain a payments franchise, as well as the role that payments can play in their customer propositions. Some of the innovations around payments are focused at the payment applications themselves and result in the deployment of multi-application cards and the use of loyalty applications. However, many innovations in payments will be invisible to customers, focusing instead on the more effective use of payment data and the re-architecting of bank payment infrastructures to support the deployment of organization-wide payment hubs

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Forrester Projects Which Enterprise Web 2.0 Collaboration Technologies Will Grow, Which Will Decline

As IT departments struggle to justify technology spend during trying economic times and vendor companies look to capitalize on the exploding market for social technologies, Forrester Research, Inc. has released new research that tracks the business value, maturity, and future adoption of enterprise Web 2.0 collaboration tools.

According to Forrester, social networking tools and internal wikis will have the greatest impact on workplace collaboration. Technologies such as forums and RSS have a future in the enterprise but are currently underused, while podcasts have a limited future as an enterprise tool to increase productivity and enhance collaboration.

Forrester previously estimated the enterprise Web 2.0 collaboration market will hit $1.8 billion by 2013. The enterprise Web 2.0 TechRadar study is based upon an analysis of previous research and interviews with industry experts, vendors responsible for building or implementing these technologies, and enterprise customers and users.

Forrester predicts the following Web 2.0 collaboration technologies will continue to experience growth:

-- Social networks will transform the nature of work. Social networks provide context to content. Cultural resistance exists, but Forrester believes this will eventually break, allowing workers to connect with like-minded colleagues and enabling a collaboration channel that previously didn’t exist in the enterprise.

-- Wikis help transform collaboration. One of the most promising Web 2.0 technologies for the enterprise, users report success with Wiki endeavors, particularly when sponsored by business leaders and connected to business processes, and the market shows signs of strong growth.

-- Blogging is not going away — but it does not capture or hold the attention of an enterprise audience. Social networks will breathe new life into internal blogs by providing more context to blogged content, but Forrester found that blogging alone does not capture the attention of an enterprise audience.

-- RSS is underappreciated in the enterprise. This ubiquitous technology provides a mechanism to get content to people where they need it, rather than expecting people to find it.

The following Web 2.0 technologies have large and resilient ecosystems and can last for several years or even decades but, over time, the markets will become highly consolidated, customer numbers will flatten, and revenues will level off or decline:

-- Podcasting is on the decline. Users tell Forrester that podcasts in the context of enterprise productivity and collaboration are neither very engaging nor immersive, and the vendor landscape is shrinking.

-- Forums are underused. While forums will continue on as a fundamental enabling technology for collaboration, the marketplace is flat, and forums will become part of larger community-focused packages.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Worldwide Web Conference and Team Collaboration Software Market On Pace to Grow 22 Per Cent in 2008

Technology convergence and consolidation, coupled with an increased emphasis on workplace communities, are the key forces keeping the worldwide web conference and team collaboration software market revenue on pace to reach $2 billion in 2008, according to Gartner, Inc. This represents an increase of 22 per cent growth in worldwide software revenue compared with 2007.

In Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the total market for web conferencing and collaboration software market revenue is set to grow 28.6 per cent to reach $500.3 million in 2008, with strongest growth from Eastern Europe, which is on track to increase 55.3 per cent from 2007. Western Europe, which holds 90 per cent market share of the web conference and collaboration market in EMEA, is expected to grow 26.5 per cent while the Middle East and Africa will increase 45 per cent year-on-year.

Cultural differences also play a strong role in adoption of collaboration technologies. It is more common in North America and Europe to have meetings and other forms of interpersonal communications supported by collaboration tools. In Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, e-mail is used as the primary mode of communications in lieu of horizontal collaboration technologies. In Asia/Pacific and Japan, face-to-face meetings are preferred, and at times, business travel for meetings is seen as a prerequisite.

Although, it is difficult to measure the business value of interactions, a strong and growing demand exists within organizations for real-time and team-based collaboration technologies. Technologies such as instant messaging (IM) are increasingly viewed as birthright technologies, akin to email. Gartner anticipates that IM will become as popular as email by 2010. Videoconferencing will evolve to the desktop to support ad hoc conversations and become better integrated with web conferencing, IM and voice over IP (VoIP).

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adoption of SaaS and Cloud Computing Is Increasing

A new survey by Keynote Systems found that 48 percent of the respondents have already deployed, or plan to deploy applications or services via Cloud Computing or SaaS in the next six months. This finding not only reflects the heightened interest in SaaS and leveraging the Cloud Computing implementation model, but that companies are also planning to use more cost-effective application delivery models with the tight economy.

Performance ranked as a top concern for the study participants in providing a positive Web experience. Other important factors cited were fast access to content and applications, and security of applications. Only half of the survey respondents have a testing and monitoring solution in place to help ensure a positive user experience. Budget constraints and a lack of internal resources to manage a performance monitoring solution were given as reasons why companies do not have a solution in place.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Worldwide SaaS Revenue in the Enterprise Application Markets Will Grow 27 Per Cent in 2008

Worldwide software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue in the enterprise application markets* is on pace to surpass $6.4 billion in 2008, a 27 per cent increase from 2007 revenue of $5.1 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. The market is expected to more than double with SaaS revenue reaching $14.8 billion in 2012.

Gartner analysts said the adoption of SaaS is growing and evolving within the enterprise application markets as new entrants challenge incumbents, popularity increases, and interest for platform as a service grows.

Some of the key industry trends that contribute to the rapid growth of SaaS globally include businesses examining ways to reduce their IT capital expenditure budget, the increased availability of broadband which extends the viability of Web-based service solutions globally, and the demand from businesses to rapidly implement software which supports a specific business need.

The fastest-growing markets for SaaS are office suites and digital content creation (DCC), albeit from small bases. Gartner estimates that the revenue attributed to SaaS within the office suites market will reach 99.2 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2007 through 2012, with a total SaaS revenue reaching $1.9 billion in 2012. By 2012, Gartner estimates that web-based freeware such as Google Apps, Adobe Buzzword, ThinkFree, Zoho and SaaS offerings will account for 9 per cent market share of total software revenue. These offerings will coexist with traditional office products, such as Microsoft Office and complement the way individuals work today.

Gartner forecasts that the revenue attributed to SaaS in DCC market will be 96.1 per cent CAGR from 2007 through 2012

The content, communications and collaboration (CCC) markets remains the largest contributor to the overall SaaS enterprise application markets with revenue exceeding $2.1 billion in 2008, and it is expected to amount to $4.7 billion in 2012. It also shows the widest disparity of SaaS revenue generation, with SaaS representing 2 per cent to 3 per cent of enterprise content management (ECM) and more than 70 per cent of Web conferencing in 2007.

The second largest contributor to the overall SaaS enterprise application markets is customer relationship manager (CRM). In 2008, SaaS within the CRM industry is expected to exceed $1.7 billion in total software revenue. Gartner expects CRM SaaS revenue to exceed $3.2 billion in total software revenue in 2012.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Multi-Tenancy vs. Isolated Tenancy CRM

Hosted CRM manufacturer is clearly the poster-child for the software as a service (SaaS) industry and has boasted its multi-tenant architecture as the undeniable standard for hosted software delivery. However, SAP has entered the SaaS industry with its Business ByDesign solution and trumpeted its isolated tenancy hosted delivery model as one of the most overarching advantages when compared to

The debates between multi-tenant and isolated tenant hosted delivery platforms are nothing new. However, the topic has transcended from a quiet conversation among industry pundits to a full scale debate among SaaS buyers and influencers. In a new survey conducted by CRM Landmark, 89% of respondents were already using at least some CRM functionality in a hosted environment, though several of these respondents were just in the implementation process. Of those already using hosted CRM, 82% were doing so in a multi-tenant architecture, 9% were using isolated tenancy, and 9% were unsure.

The multi-tenant hosting model claims to deliver the following advantages over isolated tenancy:

--Dependability and reliability. By mandating every customer operate on the same database, operating environment and software version, the hosting manufacturer is able to deliver greater standardization, operate with fewer variables and ensure a more reliable information system.

--Material cost savings. When all customers reside within a single database, there are material economies of scale related to both software procurement costs and IT administration (including provisioning, maintenance, tuning, trouble-shooting, evolution and systems management).

--Faster life cycle evolutions. By not supporting individual client applications and multiple software versions, resources can be more tightly focused.

Not to be over-shadowed, isolated-tenancy advocates point to their hosted software architectural advantages:

--Software versioning. Whereas multi-tenant CRM software solutions require all customers to share the same application version and all customers are upgraded en masse, isolated tenancy CRM systems generally support multiple versions of their software (usually the current version and the last one or two versions) and permit clients to accept or defer new version releases. Isolated tenant and multiple version support often appeal to those clients who have incurred system integration or software customization and want the opportunity to evaluate the ramifications of a new version release before being forced to the new version.

--Increased flexibility for access to information and system integration. Because isolated-tenancy CRM applications devote a dedicated and unique database to each customer installation, greater access to data with third party query tools, report writers and integration tools is permitted.

--No-limits customization. Unlike multi-tenant applications that include constraints that cannot be violated due to the shared database approach, isolated tenancy applications offer a 'no limits' software customization which generally implies both more flexible and lower cost customization.

Though the survey results were initially extremely mixed, some trends began to appear.

--Hosted CRM and ERP buyers show increased awareness in the multi-tenant versus isolated tenancy trade off. Over one-third of the respondents indicated that the tenancy model is or was included in their software selection evaluation.

--The smaller the customer, the more likely they gave less importance to this issue. The larger the client, the more likely they preferred or even demanded isolated tenancy.

--Security-conscious organizations such as health care, financial services and federal government seemed to show strong preference for isolated tenancy.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Economy To Significantly Slow US Online Holiday Sales

US online retail sales this holiday season will reach $44 billion, a 12 percent increase over last year and the slowest growth rate to date, according to Forrester Research, Inc.. This year's weakened growth is indicative of the difficult economic environment catching up with formerly resilient Web buyers.

Although US consumers are pessimistic about the health of the economy, they expressed a marked interest in the ability of the Web to save them money. Forty-eight percent of consumers surveyed, compared with 41 percent in 2007, said that they can find the best values and deals online. Additionally, 36 percent of consumers said that they would be more likely to shop online due to high gas prices, compared with 22 percent who expressed the same sentiment last year. Forrester expects that the majority of holiday online sales will be driven by shoppers who have previously purchased online, rather than first time online buyers.

More than two-thirds of consumers surveyed said that they are planning to spend more or about the same online as they did last year. Core holiday product categories such as clothing will remain top choices for online buyers, as well as books, DVDs/videos, music, gift certificates, and toys. Respondents also indicated that they will be seeking free shipping offers more often this year than last.

This year's annual holiday forecast was a collaboration between Forrester Research and JupiterResearch, now a Forrester Research company. Two surveys were conducted to measure the attitudes and expectations of online consumers during the upcoming holiday shopping season, which was defined as the months of November and December. The first survey was fielded in September 2008 and received 2,153 individual responses. The second survey was fielded in early October 2008 and received 1,042 individual responses.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cloud Computing Entering Period of Accelerating Adoption and Poised to Capture IT Spending Growth Over the Next Five Years

Cloud computing is reshaping the IT marketplace, creating new opportunities for suppliers and catalyzing changes in traditional IT offerings. Over the next five years, IDC expects spending on IT cloud services to grow almost threefold, reaching $42 billion by 2012 and accounting for 9% of revenues in five key market segments. More importantly, spending on cloud computing will accelerate throughout the forecast period, capturing 25% of IT spending growth in 2012 and nearly a third of growth the following year.

To determine how big the cloud computing opportunity might be, and what it will take to capture that opportunity, a broad group of IDC analysts collaborated on the development of a formal point of view on just what cloud computing is.

When people talk about cloud computing, they are usually referring to the online delivery and consumption models for business and consumer services. In most cases, however, the "computing" lies behind a more recognizable service, like banking or shopping or online storage. Accordingly, IDC believes it is important to distinguish between cloud services and the cloud computing environment that enables these services.

-- Cloud Services are the consumer and business products, services, and solutions that are delivered and consumed in real time over the Internet.

-- Cloud Computing is an emerging IT development, deployment, and delivery model, enabling real-time delivery of products, services, and solutions over the Internet.

The attributes of cloud services make the consumption of goods and services easier and cheaper – and often better – than through traditional delivery modes. These attributes also lower costs, simplify and accelerate access, enable fine-tuned provisioning, greatly increase the number and variety of available services, and improve the potential to integrate these services.

As the foundation for cloud services, cloud computing consists of a growing list of technologies and IT offerings that enable cloud services, including infrastructure systems (servers, storage, networks), application software, system and application management software, IP networks, and pricing agreements.

The shift toward cloud computing is being driven by three market forces: the search for growth (and revenues) in important new segments, including emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) as well as the small and medium business (SMB) sector; the shortcomings of traditional approaches in capturing the growth in these increasingly important markets; and competitive pressures from new players with little to lose and everything to gain from pushing the new model.

IDC believes there are two principal opportunities for IT suppliers from the growth of cloud services. One area of opportunity for the IT supplier is to consider delivering its own IT products or services to customers via the cloud model. This means considering whether to get into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, the storage cloud business, the server cloud business, etc. The other area of opportunity for IT suppliers to consider is how its current and future offerings can support its customers' development, deployment, and delivery of a wide variety of business and consumer cloud services. In other words, providing the tools for others to get into the cloud services business.

To succeed, cloud services providers need to address a mixture of traditional and cloud concerns. According to survey respondents, the two most important things a cloud services provider can offer are competitive pricing and performance level assurances. These are followed by the ability to demonstrate an understanding of the customer's industry and the ability to move cloud services back on-premises if necessary.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sales 2.0: Social Media for Knowledge Management and Sales Collaboration

As the proliferation of social computing has forever changed the way customers gain information and feedback concerning a particular company's products or services, sales representatives are challenged to sell to a prospect base that potentially knows as much, if not more, about the competitive landscape than the reps themselves. This new challenge has caused a number of companies to implement social media solutions within the enterprise as a way to more effectively connect sales representatives to the subject-matter experts they seek.

A recent study conducted by the Aberdeen Group reveals that 59% of Best-in-Class companies consider the use of social media collaboration tools within the sales department to be a priority to the organization, compared to 35% of all others. Aberdeen’s report reveals how top performing companies currently blend process and technology to achieve a higher level of collaboration and, ultimately, a superior sales performance.

The pressure to increase top-line revenue growth (63%) and improve overall sales productivity (60%) were identified by survey respondents as the top two pressures causing organizations to focus resources on the organizational capabilities and technology enablers use to improve sales performance. Nearly a third of respondents (32%) also cited the need to compete with increasing customer and prospect knowledge of products and competitive differentiators as a factor when determining spend on sales performance. Best-in-Class companies indicated that they currently implement formal and documented sales processes (66%), solicit the support of senior management for internal-facing social media solutions (55%), and currently have, or plan to have in the near future, defined performance metrics to measure the impact of social media on sales productivity.

The report demonstrates the value of collectively leveraging organizational practices in process, performance measurement, knowledge management, and technology to provide a foundation for sales success. By combining organizational capabilities with a strong focus on enterprise social media solutions, Best-in-Class companies are able to positively affect performance in average deal size and increase market share.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Study of Channel Chiefs Suggests Strategic Shift Toward Sales Effectiveness Needed in 2009

A new survey released by BLUEROADS and SiriusDecisions has demonstrated a clear link between the types of partner programs that top channel executives emphasize and their impact on revenue growth in the indirect channel. Of those executives surveyed who said they focused on sales ‘effectiveness’ strategic activities such as lead management and deal registration, 62 percent reported an increase in revenue in 2008.

Paradoxically, 80 percent of the channel investments by the vendors that were surveyed focused around tactical issues such as training, partner portals, and partner communication tools – all activities that simply automate the relationship with partners. Of those who focused investment on these types of ‘efficiency’ programs, only 40 percent reported an increase in channel revenue in 2008.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents recognize they need to spend more on sales effectiveness programs in 2009. However, their intended actions don’t necessarily support that goal. For example, training and partner content portals were among the top technology investments, yet these are often simply easy-to-implement infrastructure investments with limited return.

Several other data points from the survey point to the need for a change in focus away from efficiency initiatives for channel chiefs in 2009:

*Most are not measuring and monitoring the performance of leads or sales opportunities effectively

*Required reporting from the channel focuses merely on tactical pipeline and deal status, rather than on strategic issues such as lead acceptance and deal registration, which hampers the opportunity for vendor staff to provide high value sales support to the partner community.

BLUEROADS points to several key recommended investment areas that will help channel chiefs to boost effectiveness:

*Measurement of every partner, lead and opportunity KPI
*Generate high quality leads for the channel
*Rapid delivery of leads to channel
*Get each lead to the right partner every time
*Lead and opportunity accountability on the part of channel partners
*Protection from channel conflict
*Bi-directional accountability and benefit for all revenue generating programs
*Selling guidance and coaching to help partners accelerate sales cycles

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Companies Fail to Realize Customer Revenue Potential

The shift to Individualized Relationship Marketing (IRM) is one of the key preliminary findings from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council's new thought leadership initiative, "Precision Promotion: Timely, Targeted and Trackable," sponsored by the InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh. Using more personalized, relevant and precise customer communication is a key strategy marketers intend to leverage to achieve greater revenue and profitability from existing customers.

The research is part of a multi-faceted program aimed at exploring strategies and techniques for customer revenue optimization, including integrating transactional print and electronic communications with personalized promotional marketing offers. To date, more than 600 sales and marketing professionals have completed the survey that focuses on the challenges, solutions and new strategies for realizing greater bottom line growth through deeper, more targeted communications with customers.

Among the key findings:

--Maximum revenue is still out of reach: Over 76 percent of marketers surveyed felt that they were not realizing the full revenue potential of their current customers. Over 10 percent claimed to not know at all.

--Strategy is getting personal: Messaging that is more personalized, relevant and precise is the top strategy marketers will deploy for achieving greater revenue and profitability according to 60 percent of the respondents. Marketers will also look to find new ways to up- or cross-sell current accounts (45 percent), address under-penetrated markets or new customer segments (41 percent), and will use more efficient channels or alternative media to engage (32 percent).

--Bribery won't lead to loyalty: As marketers look for new routes to customer loyalty, providing new inducements and incentives to do business will probably not factor into the strategic roadmap (9 percent of respondents).

--Good news for database marketing solution providers: Marketers will be introducing better segmentation, profiling and targeting strategies (60 percent of respondents), adding or improving database marketing systems (49 percent) and acquiring new analytics capabilities (30 percent) to better target and engage.

--Better news for direct marketing solution providers: Marketers also indicate continued investment in personalizing multi-channel communications (30 percent) and individualizing print, email, text messaging, call center or web interactions (26 percent).

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Opportunity’s There for End-User Experience Management

Knoa, a provider of end-user experience and performance management software, has announced the findings of a survey conducted among IT executives and business stakeholders at Global 1000 companies. The goal of the survey was to gain insight into the impact of end-user experience on the results derived from CRM deployments.

Results of the survey clearly show that many enterprises find their end-users are having difficulties interacting with these systems. CRM systems are one of the most challenging of enterprise software deployments because so much of the end-user behavior necessary to drive results is essentially voluntary, say Knoa executives. All too often, adoption and effective use of CRM functionality is hampered by a below par end-user experience with the application.

A significant majority of the survey respondents, 65 percent, stated that end-users within their organizations complain about the usability and/or response time of their CRM system. And 60 percent of respondents expressed concerned that a lack of adoption and utilization of a CRM system causes the information to be inaccurate, or unrealistic.

The survey revealed that the stakeholders in CRM implementations recognize the importance of end-user experience, as only 16 percent are not attempting to measure end-user experience at all. But, the mechanisms in use to measure varied widely, with only 20 percent of survey respondents stating that they use an end-user monitoring technology.

Thirty percent of survey respondents said they use help desk logs to measure user experience. While an analysis of help desk logs will yield some insight, the approach is blind to those end-users who do not ask for help, who have opted out of using the application, or find non-compliant workarounds.

Fifty-three percent of respondents use survey techniques to measure the user experience. Surveys can emphasize the enterprise’s interest in end-user experience, but they can only capture limited data from the most engaged end-users who opt to respond. Too often techniques like surveys and sampling result in misleading data sets that leads to results that are not in the best interest of the business.

The research hinted that a certain degree of resignation creeps into the expectations of the stakeholders of CRM applications as the deployments mature through the application life cycle. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents who have had their CRM system in place between two and five years reported that it was running smoothly. However, 55 percent of those very same respondents reported that the users of their CRM systems complain about usability and/or response time (versus 65%) for all respondents; and 67 percent of those respondents were concerned that a lack of adoption and utilization of CRM systems causes the information to be inaccurate, or unrealistic (versus 60% for the group).

Seventy-eight percent of enterprises surveyed said they would find accurate, global end-user metrics on the response times, quality issues and usability that the CRM users are actually experiencing to be extremely valuable or very useful.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Over 80 Percent of Business Websites 'Throwing Away Sales', Survey Reveals

A new survey has found that 83 percent of businesses believe their websites are failing to convert enough visitor traffic into actual sales or enquiries, report online consultancy Backbone IT Group.

Only 15 percent of respondents expressed a high level of satisfaction with the amount of business being generated by their websites. Companies also feared that less than half of potential online sales were currently being achieved.

The survey, carried out by Backbone IT Group with assistance from Lancaster University, also highlights a lack of awareness in the wider business community of some of the more recent online marketing practices.

Although the majority of respondents were familiar with Search Engine Optimization (improving the quantity and quality of visitor traffic from search engines), only 42 percent had heard of Conversion Rate Optimization - which improves website performance so that more visitors are converted into customers.

Just 11 percent of sampled businesses were using some form of Conversion Rate Optimization, compared to 75 percent employing Search Engine Optimization - figures that Backbone believe must change in the face of the global credit crunch.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Research Shows Green IT Initiatives are the Norm for Mid- to Large-Sized Businesses

Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), an IT management research and consulting firm, issued findings from new research focused on the advancement of “Green IT” initiatives. The study reveals an astounding 100 percent of surveyed IT professionals indicated plans for new Green IT deployments during the coming year.

EMA defines Green IT solutions as products, services and practices designed to improve the efficiency of computing resources in such a way as to reduce the environmental impact of IT utilization. Some of the more popular Green IT deployments include server consolidation, automated power management and virtualization.

According to the EMA survey, 57 percent of all organizations have already implemented a Green IT initiative. In addition, the organizations that have implemented Green IT solutions have seen, on average, a 19 percent decrease in energy costs. The research also indicates that the larger the organization, the greater likelihood it has implemented a Green IT solution. Results showed that of smaller companies with less than 2,500 employees, 39 percent have deployed Green IT solutions. On the other hand, 73 percent of companies with 10,000 or more employees have implemented Green IT solutions.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

More Than 60 Percent of Fortune 1000 Companies With a Web Site Will Connect to or Host a Form of Online Community by 2010

To do business with the growing "Generation Virtual" population, companies will need to provide, or connect to, social applications to attract and engage customers, gathering information about their future wants and needs to lead them toward products and services, according to Gartner, Inc. By 2010, more than 60 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies with a Web site will connect to or host some form of online community that can be utilized for customer relationship purposes.

However, establishing an online community isn’t without challenges. Gartner predicts that by 2010, more than 50 percent of companies that have established an online community will fail to establish mutual purpose, ultimately eroding customer and company values. To combat this, marketing organizations will need new skills to meet the needs of Generation Virtual.

Unlike previous generations, Generation Virtual (also known as Generation V) is not defined by age -- or gender, social demographic or geography -- but is based on demonstrated achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights. The definition of Generation V derives from the recognition that these common behaviors, attitudes and interests are starting to blend together in an online environment.

When doing business with Generation V, marketers will need to attract online personas by creating multiple, engaging online destinations and provide tools for Generation V individuals population to socialize and express their different personas. By creating these destinations, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of Generation V. Marketers should provide, or connect to, online destinations from selling-focused sites and community forums to brand-aware, persistent, 3-D virtual worlds to get customers to their sites and promote socialization in the community. From there, marketers can lead prospects to products and services while gathering relevant information about their future wants and needs.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Survey Shows Blogs, Online Product Reviews Significantly Influence Mobile Phone Purchases

According to the September 2008 Ad-ology Media Influence on Consumer Choice survey, 60.5 percent of U.S. consumers who recently purchased a mobile or wireless phone said online product reviews and user comments had some or significant influence on their purchase decision. Nearly 30 percent also rated information from blogs with the same level of influence.

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Consumers who rated online blogs and reviews highly tend to be younger (18 to 34 years old) and have average or higher than average incomes.
  • Television, newspapers, and direct mail advertisements were among the most influential traditional media for recent mobile phone buyers.
  • 26.3 percent of consumers surveyed indicated they prefer to purchase mobile/wireless phones online instead of in person/at a store.
  • Survey respondents also revealed product reviews, user comments, and blogs significantly influenced other consumer electronics purchases.
  • The price of a cell phone was widely considered to be a less important buying factor than rate plans, coverage area, and mobile phone product quality.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Study of 25 Brands Highlights Inconsistencies in Content and Touch Points

Marketers must become much more adept at delivering relevant, targeted and consistent brand messaging and information across multiplying channels of customer interaction and communication, reports a new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.
The CMO Council ranked Home Depot top of the list in customer experience followed by Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Those scoring less well were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

In light of recent industry upheavals in industries such as aviation, automotive, banking, diversified financial services and home building, the need for a major focus on the overall customer experience is arguably more important today than ever. Some of the study’s highest-ranked companies offered the most consistent customer experience across all customer touch points, ranging from web sites to advertising programs to call centers to in-store presentations.

Home Depot, the top-ranked brand, did not stand out in a single category, but it communicates an even, consistent and accurate brand message. It leverages the belief, “You Can Do It, We Can Help,” clearly through its web site, call center, events and in-store content channels.

Other companies that scored in the top quintile in the CMO Council study were Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Rankings were contingent on the consistency and accuracy of branding and messaging on their Web sites and in their call centers, advertising, marketing collateral, retail displays and customer-centric events. Companies that ranked in the lower quintile were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

Hurting many companies, in particular, were negative customer call center experiences, causing the rankings of many companies to plummet. Prime examples were DirectTV and Comcast. Ominously, consumers have stated that a single negative experience with a brand can alter the decision to do business with a company. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,000 adult consumers, 80 percent of consumers will never go back to an organization after a negative experience. Seventy four percent of unhappy customers would register a complaint or tell others.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Contrasting Views on Cloud Computing Are Creating Confusion

The term "cloud computing" is being loosely applied and defined differently, and it's creating a lot of confusion in the market, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts say it is imperative to understand these different perspectives and set the proper expectations to obtain the anticipated benefits.

Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing in which massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided "as a service" using Internet technologies to multiple external customers. However, there have been different perceptions of what is included in cloud computing.

The two prevalent views of cloud computing are as follows:

-The cloud is an idea that derives from the perspective of the Internet/Web/software as a service (SaaS). The focus is more on cloud than computing with the emphasis placed on access to services from elsewhere (that is, from the cloud). This cloud is a global-class phenomenon and a high-level concept that can refer to a range of services extending from system infrastructure (for example, compute services and storage services) through applications (for example, CRM) and business processes (for example, payroll services). Gartner's definition is along these lines, with the off-premises nature of cloud services being the point of reference, and applicability to intraenterprise use as a secondary effect.

-The second popular interpretation is a use of technologies, including virtualization and automation, that focuses more on the computing than on the cloud aspect, with emphasis placed on the technologies that enable the creation and delivery of service-based capabilities. This perspective is an extension of traditional data center approaches and can be applied to entirely internal enterprise systems with no use of external off-premises capabilities provided by a third party.

Gartner recommends that users clearly separate the consideration of cloud computing and cloud computing services from the use of cloud computing-related concepts and technologies for the creation of internal systems. Both perspectives (services and technologies) are valuable and should be pursued; however, they are two separate but related initiatives.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Embrace Technology Chaos To Drive Business Results

At its recently concluded Business & Technology Leadership Forum 2008, Forrester Research, Inc. told IT and business executives that their organizations must embrace chaotic technologies such as the proliferation of consumer devices, social networking tools, and cloud-based collaboration services. Forrester also unveiled new data from its forthcoming Q3 2008 North America Business Technology Online Survey. The data revealed:

Business execs are more aware of technology's importance but see IT as ineffective. Eight-two percent of those surveyed agreed that technology is a core component of their products and services. More than 70 percent agreed that technology is central to how they differentiate themselves from competitors and that it is essential for their distribution and sales model. However, less than 40 percent of the respondents said IT was very effective in supporting them in those areas.

Business execs feel that IT doesn't support critical business drivers. Eighty-two percent of respondents indicated that lowering overall operating costs is a key business imperative, but only 42 percent said IT supported this goal well. Similarly, 78 percent said that improving workforce productivity is a key business goal, but only 45 percent said IT was providing strong support in this area.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Online Community Compensation Study Sets the Benchmark for Salaries in the Industry

Forum One Networks, a strategy and research group specializing in online communities, conducted the first in-depth study of online community staff compensation to date. The Online Community Compensation Survey reported, on average, that survey participants had a job satisfaction rating of 4.2 out of 5. Of the 225 respondents, 65% were salaried and work 41-50 hours per week. While 78% of those surveyed were 31 years of age or older, individual salaries greatly, with salaries ranging anywhere from $25K annually to $150K annually.

Many respondents stated that their companies don’t have a full appreciation for their job duties and responsibilities and as a result, their salaries are lower than they should be. One survey respondent notes that “companies will pay more for community staff once the value is realized. In order to add to our community team…we are showing the value that the community has to our company as a whole, such as; reducing support calls, up-sells, and generally more satisfied customers. Then it’s easier to justify salaries and increased staff.” The survey includes detailed information on salaries by gender, age and location. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings is that women who participated in the survey are paid 91% of the average men’s salaries.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Retailers Believe Online Shopping More Resilient Than Other Channels

Despite a struggling economy throughout most of this year, the majority of online retailers continue to be cautiously optimistic about how their businesses will perform during the next 12 months. According to The State of Retailing Online 2008, the 11th annual study conducted by Forrester Research, Inc., 72 percent of online retailers believe that the online channel is better suited to withstand an economic slowdown than offline channels.

About one-third (35%) of online retailers surveyed said they expect their online business to perform better than expected in the next 12 months, while another third (33%) anticipate their online business will perform the same as expected. This optimistic outlook is driven primarily by past results. According to the report, 81 percent of online retailers surveyed reported that their eCommerce business was profitable in 2007, and 75 percent were also more profitable last year than in 2006. Almost half (49%) of online retailers said that their average conversion rate in 2007 was higher than in 2006, and that 36 percent of total sales for the online retailers were driven by repeat customers—higher than in 2006. However, due to their outlook for the US economy, 37 percent of survey respondents noted that they've lowered their expectations for their online business performance in the next 12 months.

The report advises that online retailers must still execute well to capture possible sales. Additionally, it cautions that those sales may not necessarily be the highest-margin revenue due to increased input costs and the pressure to offer promotions such as free shipping.

The report notes that online retailers are still challenged in creating cohesive customer experiences among multiple sales channels. While many web teams continue to operate in silos, apart from store and catalog teams, multichannel retailers report that half of online customers also shop in the company's stores or through its catalogs, exemplifying why online employees should have a vested interest in stores' performance and vice versa. The report recommends that online retailers devise practical, measurable goals and incentives to motivate employees in all parts of the company — whether they are tied directly to the web or not — to promote sales in all channels that the retailer offers.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Many Social Software Projects Fail Due to IT Managers Not Having a Well-Defined Purpose to Succeed

Many social software projects fail because IT managers wrongly believe that successful communities form spontaneously after social software tools are installed, according to Gartner Inc. IT and business managers in charge of deploying social software need to choose a core purpose for the community and arrange implementation to achieve that purpose.

The perception that communities on the public Internet appear to arise overnight and quickly grow to encompass millions of participants has led many organizations to assume that social software does not require the system-building rigor typical of many deployments. However, most successful social sites start with a defined purpose and a limited scope.

Gartner maintains that users need a well-defined purpose of appropriate scope around which to mobilize and that a good purpose for a social application has seven key characteristics:

1. MagneticThe purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the "What's in it for me?" characteristic.

2. AlignedPurpose should align with business value, that is the "What's in it for the business?" value, be it direct or indirect.

3. Low RiskOrganizations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.

4. Properly scopedGartner advises organizations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community's scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.

5. Facilitates EvolutionPurposes must be selected that both the organization and community can build on. A "purpose road map" will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative enterprise.

6. MeasurableThe success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organizations are skeptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.

7. Community-DrivenThe value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than do the enterprises that support them. If the purpose requires the enterprise to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the enterprise has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Research Reveals Best Practices in Partner Relationship Management

Every company that sells products and solutions through channel partnerships is looking for new ways to maximize value from channel sales. In order to grow channel revenue, organizations must empower channel partners with incentives and resources. The need to manage the channel becomes equally as important as managing the company’s own internal sales and marketing efforts. As a result, manufacturers rely heavily on technology to automate and standardize channel management with the goal of reducing channel conflict, improving partner loyalty, and increasing the overall revenue for the manufacturer. A recent research study entitled, “Channel Sales: Renaissance in Partner Management”, conducted by the Aberdeen Group reveals that 72% of survey respondents lack sufficient visibility into the performance of channel partners and 84% of all respondents are exploring investments in channel management in the next 12 to 24 months.

While the challenges of increasing channel revenue (88%) and increasing visibility into the channel (28%) to improve forecasting and channel management were identified by all respondents as the top two factors causing companies to focus resources on channel management, the research reveals that Best-in-Class organization demonstrate superior performance in annual channel revenue by continually recruiting new partners and focusing on cross-selling/up-selling initiatives with existing partners. Best-in-Class companies indicated that they currently utilize partner relationship management solutions (89%), lead referral systems (59%), and lead tracking tools (55%) to improve the effectiveness of channel partners. Despite the adoption of technology solutions, the research reveals that Best-in-Class companies yield higher returns than all others by supplementing technology adoption with processes and other organizational capabilities. The result is increased revenue growth for Best-in-Class companies.

The report demonstrates the value of collectively leveraging organizational practices in process, performance measurement, knowledge management, and technology to provide a foundation for partner success. By combining organizational capabilities with a two-pronged strategic approach focusing on partner recruitment and cross-sell/up-sell initiatives, Best-in-Class companies are able to positively affect performance in average order value and deal size.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Greenest Generation: Survey Reveals Older Demographics as Biggest Users of Green Products

Bucking the belief that environmentalism is a youth movement, consumers over 55 years old are the most prolific users of green products in the United States, according to survey results released by ICOM Information & Communications.

Both male and female groups 55 years and over reported above average usage of environmentally friendly home goods. Leading the way was the 55-59 year-old female demographic, who was more than twice as likely as the average consumer to use green products. Males 65-69 years old were second, more than 1.7 times as likely to use than the average American.

In a rare insight to the penetration of green products into the American home, 61.9% of survey respondents said that they do use some type of environmentally friendly product. When asked why they elect to purchase eco-friendly goods, a leading 33% of the group selected the self-gratifying “makes me feel good about myself.”

When asked why they elect not to purchase or use green products, 50% of non-adopters cited high prices as the main factor. The next highest reason selected for avoiding green goods was “I do not believe that they are that much better for the environment,” at 17%.
Of those that said they do not use environmentally friendly products, both male and female demographics aged 25-34 years old were among the “least likely to use” when compared with the national average.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Yankee Group Reports Declare the Anywhere Connectivity Revolution the Largest Technology Transformation Yet

Yankee Group has released two new reports that predict that the Anywhere connectivity revolution will be the largest technology transformation the world has yet seen, far surpassing the cultural and economic effects of the internet revolution. These Yankee Group Reports, The Anywhere Tipping Point and The Anywhere Economy, reveal that Anywhere connectivity is a global phenomenon, with the financial impact of the Anywhere Network soaring to nearly US$1 trillion in the next 5 years alone. The reports also forecast that 16 countries will reach the Anywhere "tipping point" by 2012, when the number of broadband lines will exceed the number of people in those regions.

Yankee Group defines Anywhere as the trend of ubiquitous connectivity, bringing the ability to connect all of us and the things we care about. The Anywhere revolution is being sparked by three trends: 1) the internet as a digital communications standard; 2) increasing demand for broadband capacity; and 3) the game–changing ubiquity of wireless networks. These catalysts are inciting a revolution whose impact will be far greater than the sum of these parts.

The reports also reveal that:

--The Anywhere Network already accounts for US$590 billion in spending annually and touches one out of seven people globally. Spending will grow to US$903 billion in 5 years.

--Two dozen countries around the world are now transforming because of increasing connectivity, with more than one broadband line for every three citizens today.

--Japan, Sweden and Italy will be the first countries to achieve the Anywhere tipping point, reaching more than one broadband line per person next year.

--Sixteen countries across many areas of Europe, North America and Asia will become Anywhere Economies by 2012.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Influencer Programs Hold the Key to Building Increased Long Term Engagement in Online Communities

Forum One Networks, a strategy and research group specializing in online communities, has found in a recent study, Online Community Marketing, Growth and Engagement, that companies who have employed influencer programs are at a competitive advantage to build longer term loyalty from their community members.

Most companies are focused on short term, tactical metrics such as; time spent on site, activity on the site, frequency on site and other standard metrics. A smaller set of research participants reported developing influencer programs with an eye toward building long term engagement. One respondent noted that their community building efforts “ … are not campaign-based for short term ROI, but long term for building brand advocates and evangelists. Expected payback is subtle, over years, not weeks, but clearly evident within weeks.”

As online community practitioners work to develop better metrics, ROI and best practices, building effective influencer programs will likely become more standard practice. According to Bill Johnston, chief community officer for Forum One Networks, “Influencer programs are becoming important elements of a mature community strategy. Companies are beginning to see the long term value of finding, thanking and engaging the key influencers in their community.”

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Enterprises Must Anticipate How Societal Trends Will Impact Their Business and Customers

As IT-based devices and technologies become more personal in scope and application, social issues will become increasingly important to product success, according to Gartner, Inc. In order to identify and react to major societal shifts and trends, Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, 15 percent of U.S. and European businesses will have formalized societal trend watching as a corporate discipline.

Adding technology to the natural human desire to communicate enables individuals to participate in more, richer, faster and denser social networks. Some are enabled by basic Internet infrastructure, such as e-mail and instant messaging, while others by more specialist tools or sites, such as FriendFeed, Twitter, Ryze or Orkut. Such networks form an increasing proportion of the trusted information sources that individuals use to make decisions.

The danger that many organizations run into is trying to determine which trends to watch. Gartner recommends giving responsibility to a group to watch societal trends and to focus on the following points to maximize short-term and strategic decisions while positioning the business for the future. Other recommendations include:

--Social factors will become increasingly important in business and commercial systems. Adopt a human-centric design perspective. Watch these factors on an ongoing basis.

--Appoint staff to review systems and working practices to identify legal, ethical and social risks.

--Conduct an opportunity/threat analysis to identify product and service opportunities enabled by the connected society.

--Understand and exploit network effects in products and services.

--Explore the opportunities to use network effects and the connected society to solve business and government problems in new ways.

--Privacy is a way of life and a business strategy decision, not a technical issue. Appoint a privacy officer.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Nearly Half of Search Marketers Do Not Integrate Efforts with Offline Channels

A new study by iProspect reveals that 45 percent of search engine marketers do not integrate their search marketing efforts with offline channels. While the concept of integrating search with offline channels is far from new, the findings from this new study seem to indicate otherwise. In fact, the study finds that just over half of search engine marketers (55 percent) intentionally integrate their efforts with at least one offline marketing channel. Specifically, that integration most often takes place with direct mail (34 percent) and magazine/newspaper advertising (29 percent), while both television (12 percent) and radio advertising (12 percent) trail behind.

When compared to the iProspect Offline Influence on Online Search Behavior Study, these results take on new meaning. Published in August of 2007, the study revealed that two-thirds (67%) of search engine users are driven to search by an offline channel, and that 39% of those offline-influenced search users ultimately make a purchase from the company that prompted their initial search. Moreover, it also shows television advertising to be the leading offline channel that drives users to search (37%).

But the subpar state of integration revealed in this study can be attributed to a lot more than search marketer failure, as obstacles abound. The study shows the lack of integration can be attributed to a number of factors, including: lack of budget (19%), lack of human resources (15%), not considered (13%), lack of senior management buy-in (11%), and separate people managing search marketing and offline channels (11%).

Other key findings from the study include:

--The two integration techniques most frequently employed by search marketers are: prominently including the company Web address (84%) and the company name (66%) in offline marketing initiatives.
--Only 26% of marketers utilize the same keywords in offline campaigns as are used in search marketing campaigns in their integration efforts.
--Nearly a quarter (24%) of companies DO NOT participate in offline marketing at all.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Google’s Satisfaction Soars Propelling E-Business to an All-Time High in Latest American Customer Satisfaction Index

Customer satisfaction with e-business websites reaches a new high, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) second quarter report. The annual e-business report measures customer satisfaction with search engines, portals and online news and information sites. Overall, the e-business sector climbs an impressive 6% to a score of 79.3 on ACSI’s 100-point scale.

After a slip last year, Google soars 10% in 2008 to resume the top spot for portals and search engines. Google’s score of 86 is one of the highest for any service company in all of ACSI. In recent years, Google has continued its successful transformation from a search engine to a full-service portal. Google added features like email, chat, maps, and news while maintaining its highly functional search engine brand.

After a promising rise in 2007, Yahoo falls 3% to 77 amid distractions from merger overtures from Microsoft. Instead of focusing on the consumer experience, Yahoo’s energies were tied up fighting off a hostile takeover bid in an effort to preserve its legacy and independence. In that time, Yahoo lost several key managers and consumer perceptions may have been adversely affected by extensive negative press surrounding the merger.

Microsoft’s MSN remains unchanged at 75. Unable to increase market share, MSN resorted to prize giveaways that did nothing to drive traffic or satisfaction. So the company decided to put its resources into acquiring a rival in hopes that the combination could finally threaten Google’s supremacy. slips 1% to 74, just a point below MSN. While the search market is clearly dominated by one superpower, shows promising signs. is the most improved of the companies primarily focused on search, surging 19% since it was first measured in 2002. The company committed to a customer-centric, long-term development plan and remains focused by adding features aimed to increase user privacy positioning the company for future growth.

AOL registers a disappointing satisfaction score of 69, despite a 3% increase. With a score that is 17 points below Google's and eight points behind closest portal competitor Yahoo, AOL grapples to compete on any front.

In addition to measuring portals and search engines, the annual e-business report also measures news and information sites including (76), (75), (75), (73), and (73). In aggregate, the news and information category is unchanged at 75, and while some sites have increased a point or two, satisfaction remains essentially at parity with a spread of only 3 points between top and bottom performers in the category.

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