Thursday, May 29, 2008

Study Confirms Strong, Ongoing Demand for Email in Direct Marketing, Mobile and Web 2.0 Applications

Habeas, Inc. recently released its 2008 study of consumer attitudes towards email and online interaction with businesses. The study, completed in May 2008 by research firm Ipsos, found that consumers prefer email as a primary method of communications in their personal and business capacities; they will continue to prefer email in the future despite the rise of online threats and the emergence of other communication channels and Web 2.0 applications. The report also revealed an interest from consumers in gaining more control over their online interactions with businesses and an increasing level of concern over spam and virus threats reaching consumers through their mobile devices.

This year's research covered subjects as varied as security features and email protection, consumer abilities to identify spam, concerns about fraud, preferred modes of communications, online purchases resulting from email communications, email privacy, email unreliability and online marketing practices and reputation management.

Highlights from the study include:

Email's Vitality

--Sixty-seven percent of respondents prefer email as a communications channel over other online vehicles and 65 percent believe this will continue to be the case in five years.

--Consumer opinion of the future importance of email registered far above future expectations for video conferencing (19 percent), instant messaging (17 percent), SMS text messages (12 percent) and Web meetings (12 percent).

--Sixty-five percent of the demographic between the ages of 18 to 34, the age demographic most comfortable with IM, SMS and emerging communications methods, will favor email to communicate with businesses in five years.

Consumer Concerns Regarding Online Threats Increasing

--Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed expressed concern about being victimized by email fraud scams, a significant rise from the 62 percent finding in the 2007 Habeas report.

--Forty-three percent of respondents voiced concern over the spam and virus threat to mobile devices, which represents a rise from 2007's 36 percent and a sure reflection of the increasing use of the "mobile inbox" through smartphone and internet-enabled phone devices.

--As many as 35 percent of those surveyed do not know what to look for when trying to sift through emails that might potentially be dangerous.

Online Reputation Management Best Practices to Build Trust

--More than 88 percent of respondents said they would like organizations to give them more choices over the content and frequency of the emails they receive, including options on advertisements, special offers, articles, newsletters, white papers and other specific content options.

--More than 80 percent of participants favor doing business with organizations that use opt-in permission to send them email.

--Monthly emails and content and frequency options positively impacted a company's reputation.

--Three of every four respondents prefer engaging with organizations that exhibit strong privacy practices.

--Only 12 percent of respondents acknowledged making one or more purchases from businesses they did not know.

Online Business Practices to Avoid

--As many as one in four respondents lose some degree of faith in an organization that is unable to deliver email reliably.

--Daily email messages ranked with pop-up advertisements as the most damaging online tactics to a company's online reputation.

--On average, about 80 percent of respondents are not comfortable with businesses sharing their email address.

--Internet users believe that about two thirds of companies are likely to share their email addresses with third parties.

--More than 80 percent feel that a business' reputation is negatively affected if it shares customer email addresses with third parties.

The 2008 Habeas study confirmed the consumer "Email Insecurity Factor" findings uncovered in the 2007 study. This year's report again found that nearly 60 percent of users employ two or more personal email addresses, giving a different address to entities they do not trust while maintaining separate accounts for trustworthy sources.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ninety Percent of Corporate Virtual World Projects Fail Within 18 Months

Nine out of ten business forays into virtual worlds fail within 18 months but their impact on organizations could be as big as that of the internet, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts said that focusing on the technology rather than understanding user requirements is one of the key reasons for failure.

Further reasons for the high failure rate include starting projects for the ‘cool’ factor or because competitors are doing it. Many were closed down or abandoned by a lack of clear objectives and a limited understanding of the demographics, attitudes and expectations of virtual-world communities.

A benefit of virtual worlds is the rich collaboration experience they offer by adding a real-time visual dimension via avatars, so interactions can include emotional information in the "conversations" between individuals, setting them apart from simpler networking applications. They also differentiate themselves from web-based interactions (which can be asynchronous) by requiring both parties to be present at the same time.

The cost of implementing a corporate virtual platform is also marginal, typically from around $50k and trials can start from as little as $5k, which can further motivate companies to experiment with them. It could also save costs from reduced use of expensive videoconferencing facilities and eliminate the need to bring employees from multiple locations and time-zones to a single site, with substantial savings in travel and associated costs and time, thereby also supporting corporate environmental initiatives.

If selecting the virtual world route, organizations have three broad choices: they can enter an existing one (such as Second Life or, create there own public world, or create their own internal, private world.

By 2012, Gartner estimates that 70 per cent of organizations will have established their own private virtual worlds and predicts that these internal worlds will have greater success due to lower expectations, clearer objectives and better constraints.

There is meaningful corporate use of virtual world platforms that organizations can embrace. Gartner said that organizations could start using virtual worlds in role-based scenario-driven training exercises or complex situational simulation. They could be used in training emergency services (such as medical, fire and police) and military/law enforcement services to simulate real-world scenarios, including public order control and medical emergencies. The second phase could involve extended virtual-world deployment to support collaboration and employee interaction to provide a secure, persistent and interactive virtual workspace to allow individuals to interact and improve collaboration. It could then progress to enhance socialization both within and external to the organization and ultimately extend to a broader community that includes supply chain partners and customers.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Companies Fail To Define and Deliver Complete Customer Experience

The pursuit of customer loyalty through customer experience is high on the corporate agenda, yet companies still fail to understand the totality of customer expectations and therefore deliver commodity products and services, Strativity Group's new Global Benchmark study discovers.

The 379 executive participants study examined organizations' complete customer experience cycle from customer experience definition to customer-centric organizational alignment as well as their mechanism to respond to customer feedback.

Although the study indicates that 80% of the executives strongly agree that customer strategies are more important to companies' success than ever before, companies fail to design and deliver those strategies and, as such, lose customer commitment and loyalty.

Study results highlights include:

--Only 43.9% (up from 40.0% in 2006) believed that their companies deserve their customers' loyalty

--42.6% responded that their companies' products and services are NOT worth the price they charge (down from 44.0% in 2006)

--56% responded that their companies have differentiated and beneficial products and services (up from 49.5% in 2006)

--43.7% said their companies will take any customer that is willing to pay (up from 38.3% in 2006)

--Only 34.8% indicated that their company has a dedicated customer experience management role

--Only 27.2% of the respondents said that the definition of the customer experience is well-defined and communicated in their companies

--Only 28.8% responded that employees have the tools and authority to solve customer problems (down from 34.0% in 2006)

--Only 23.9% agreed that their employees are well-versed in how to delight customers

The benchmark study highlights a critical gap between companies' recognition of the importance of customer-focused strategies and their ability to successfully develop and implement such strategies. The executives surveyed responded overwhelmingly that their companies lack the three foundational elements critical to any customer-centric program:

1.A clear customer experience strategy
2.Employees with the tools and empowerment necessary to deliver extraordinary experiences
3.A systematic mechanism to transform customer feedback into actions

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Two-Thirds of Retailers Lack Cross Channel System and Process Integration

Recent Aberdeen research indicates that only 30% of cross-channel retailers (e.g., direct sales, stores & Internet, Internet & call center, or a combination) have attained some level of cross-channel integration across their inventory, order management, fulfillment, and customer processes such as consistent pricing, product information, promotions, and loyalty initiatives. All of the above processes contribute towards a new customer acquisition and customer retention in the web, catalog, and store channels.

The research has detailed the Best-in-Class approach to integration. For instance, Best-in-Class retailers’ focus on creating a roadmap for multi-channel integration compared to Average and Laggard companies. More than half (53%) of the Best-in-Class are currently focused on developing an integrated brand identity amongst their customer base as a core strategy. The research reveals that designing the process and system strategy for multi-channel integration is a significant decision for any retailer from a web site, call center, end-to-end order management, or customer fulfillment standpoint. The business case for improving, or introducing, a unified cross-channel strategy involve factors such as customer value, business targets, investments to change or improve existing multi-channel technology, operating costs, and internal skill sets.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Customer Satisfaction Improves for Retail Websites does the best job satisfying its customers, according to the ForeSee Results Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Index. The online retailer leads the Index with a score of 86 on the study’s 100-point scale with (84) and (83) trailing slightly. Overall, customer satisfaction with the Top 100 online retailers is up 1.4 percent to a score of 75.

The study found that online satisfaction drives loyalty, sales, and word of mouth. Highly satisfied online shoppers are 69 percent more likely to purchase from the retailer the next time they are shopping for similar merchandise, 75 percent more likely to purchase online, 42 percent more likely to purchase offline and 75 percent more likely to recommend the retailer. In order to increase online satisfaction (thereby increasing loyalty and purchase intent), e-retailers in the aggregate should focus on online branding and improving site experience.

The Books/CDs/DVDs and Sporting Goods categories lead the product category rankings, both with aggregate scores of 76. Other categories of e-retail measured by the study include: Food/Drug, Mass Merchants, and Specialty Retailers all with aggregate scores of 75 and Apparel & Accessories and Computers/Electronics bringing up the rear with 74.

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Worldwide IT Services Revenue Grew 11 Percent in 2007

Worldwide IT services revenue totaled $748 billion in 2007, a 10.5 percent increase from 2006 revenue of $677 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. Across all IT services, IBM continued to be the worldwide market leader, with 7.2 percent of the market. IBM and Accenture delivered strong growth rates, 12.2 percent and 19.7 percent, respectively, and were the only companies in the top six that experienced revenue growth rates above the overall market average.

While global sourcing makes the location of a provider’s headquarters increasingly less relevant, Gartner tracks this information for more than 360 vendors who collectively account for more than 70 percent of end-user spending worldwide. While India-based vendors’ IT services revenue grew 38 percent in 2007, these companies earned only 4.1 percent of revenue tracked, and U.S.-based vendors dominated the IT services market with 55.4 percent of that total.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Sixty-Five Percent of Small Businessse Say 'Following Up With Leads' Biggest Failure in Marketing Efforts

Surveying the landscape of small businesses across the U.S., and amid concerns over the need to grow sales while reducing expenses, small business owners say the number one frustration they face daily when it comes to sales and marketing is the inability to consistently follow up with prospects. In a survey of entrepreneurs across the U.S. conducted by small business marketing automation software provider Infusionsoft, 65 percent of small business owners cite an inability to consistently and efficiently follow up with leads as the top concern.

The survey indicates a growing frustration among small business owners and marketers with closing an immediate sale, saying that they forget the nurturing process and instead let leads simmer. Small businesses increasingly seek a way to automatically capture and court leads until they are ready to buy, thus allowing the business owner to work on strategically growing the business.

The following is a list of the top 10 marketing-related frustrations as cited by small business owners in the 2008 U.S. Small Business Marketing Frustration Survey (ranked in order of importance):

--Too difficult to follow up with cold, warm and lukewarm leads consistently and efficiently
--Can't properly track and manage prospects and customers
--Need to integrate online and offline marketing efforts
--Poor email deliverability
--Too much manual grunt work in the sales and marketing process, no automation
--Can't track sales activity
--Lack of centralization, too many different programs and systems
--Too costly to maintain servers and IT staff
--Too difficult to manually manage multichannel campaigns
--One-dimensional marketing

Automation of marketing and processes enables the small business to convert more leads into customers, grow the business without the need to grow staff, and increase sales from existing customers.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Inside Sales Delivers Efficiency and Customer Intimacy Needed in Challenging Markets

As the role of selling has become more complicated, inside sales has shifted from a simple overlay designed to assist outside sales to a force in its own right. Inside sales is now on equal footing with outside sales and playing a pivotal role in maintaining current customers and driving new revenue. According to a new study from IDC's Sales Advisory Practice, inside sales reps are generating both higher sales efficiencies for vendors as well as increased customer intimacy.

The IDC study shows that the efficiencies offered by inside sales are compelling. For example, an inside sales rep can conduct four to eight professional interactions to an outside rep's single interaction, delivering significantly higher customer satisfaction and sales productivity. Moreover, most mid-market buyers are not interested in seeing a sales rep in person more than once or twice anyway, leaving inside sales in the ideal position to manage the relationship or opportunity in a highly efficient manner, in a way that many buyers actually prefer.

Inside sales has also become highly consultative in its approach, reaching fragmented markets and bringing new views on both accountability and capability. As inside sales has evolved, it has taken on the characteristics of other successful sales organizations. Many best practice organizations have torn down the boundaries of salary versus leveraged compensation between inside and outside sales, although the issue of accountability - which person is actually driving the business - remains a point of contention in some organizations. Management's tracking of the pipeline, this study finds, is the answer.

Although the role of inside sales is expected to continue its evolution, the study uncovered an interesting point regarding the inside sales employee’s classification and its particular lack of evolution. The study reveals that although an inside salesperson may play a role similar to that of an outside salesperson, the inside salesperson is required to be classified as a non-exempt employee by the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). While this classification may have made sense when the typical inside salesperson worked in a call-center environment, it is outdated and limiting.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Marketers Are Flying Blind When It Comes To Leveraging Customer Data And Analytics

Only 50 percent of global marketers report having a strategy for further penetrating or monetizing key account relationships, reports the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in a new research study, "Business Gain From How You Retain." In addition, a surprising 45 percent rate the effectiveness of customer relationship management (CRM) systems as deficient or needing more work, with only 15 percent of companies rating themselves extremely good or effective at integrating disparate customer data sources and repositories.

Just six percent of marketers say they have excellent knowledge of the customer when it comes to demographic, behavioral, psychographic and transactional data, while over 50 percent report they have fair, little, or no knowledge of the customer.

More importantly, marketers are struggling to gain a true and timely view of the customer due to inadequate or incompatible IT systems and databases, siloed data in functional areas, and a limited strategic focus or management mandate on Customer Data Integration (CDI). Compounding the issue is a lack of formalized data-sharing policies and practices in the organization, combined with internal political or cultural barriers and IT obstacles and objections to data integration.

Other key findings from the CMO Council’s online engagement program revealed that:

--Only 15 percent of marketers say their companies are doing an extremely good or effective job of integrating disparate customer data sources and repositories; 55 percent note there is room for improvement or a deficiency in this area.

--More than 31 percent of companies surveyed had customer churn rates of more than 10 percent and 32 percent reported turnover of five to 10 percent. In comparison, more than 62 percent said they desired or expected a churn level of less than five percent

--Respondents believe customer churn significantly impacts business performance through revenue loss (59.9 percent), reduced profitability (39.6 percent) and greater marketing and re-acquisition costs (36.3 percent)

--While churn is a big issue, nearly 67 percent of those surveyed say they have no system for re-activating dormant or lost customers, while just over half of respondents have a strategy for further penetrating or monetizing key account relationships.

--While more than 35 percent of respondents report that the CMO or marketing department (38.9 percent) has primary responsibility for the customer analytics function, they are not leveraging its value. Over 31 percent of those surveyed do no data mining at all and 63 percent are only doing moderate levels of data mining for intelligence and insight.

--The top six strategic applications of customer information by marketers include:
-Up-selling and cross-selling
-Segmenting and targeting
-Driving retention, loyalty and promotional programs
-Identifying new opportunities and unmet needs
-Improving customer service
-Shaping personalized and customized communications

Key initiatives to increase customer retention include improving customer communications (65.2 percent); addressing complaints, problems and pain points (51.8 percent); and enhancing the customer experience (54.8 percent). Unfortunately, fewer marketers noted their companies’ willingness to modify business practices and policies to accommodate customer needs.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

CEOs Battle to Keep Up With the Pace of Change

The IBM Global CEO Study reveals a dramatic increase in the number of global business leaders who see important change ahead, and also highlights how the ability to absorb and manage change is widening the gap between winners and losers in the global economy.

CEOs reported a surprising level of optimism about change as an opportunity to build new competitive advantage. Overall, 83 percent of surveyed CEOs expect substantial change in the future, an increase of 28 percent in just two years. However, CEOs report their ability to effectively manage change is increasing at a far slower pace.

Collectively, CEOs set their organization's ability to manage change 22 percentage points lower than their expectations for the level of change they will have to manage - - a ‘change gap’ that is widening.

CEOs point specifically to their own customer base as the source of the most important changes they will have to address, as two new and more demanding classes of customers emerged: the ‘information omnivore’, and the ‘socially-minded’ customer. Of all the trends identified in the study, surveyed CEOs plan their most substantial increases in investment in response to these customer sets.

The IBM Global CEO Study, based on face-to-face interviews with 1,130 CEOs from 40 countries across 32 industries, is designed to capture insights on how the challenges CEOs face today will impact the future of business. The study, titled “The Enterprise of the Future,” was conducted by IBM Global Business Services in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The Rise of the Information Omnivore

The “information omnivore” craves all types of information and often broadcasts its views and expectations worldwide via the Internet. These customers are swapping passive roles for much deeper involvement. “Consumers” are becoming “producers,” often creating entertainment and advertising content for their peers, while demanding flexibility and responsiveness from companies with whom they choose to do business. Although these customers are more demanding, the majority of CEOs do not see them as a threat, but as an opportunity for differentiation based on meeting the heightened expectations of this group, and capitalizing on new market opportunities that will emerge.

Overall CEOs are planning a 22 percent increase in investments in the next three years to serve these more sophisticated and demanding customers. The investment is even more pronounced among financial out-performers. CEOs of firms with higher net profit margin growth indicate that investments targeted at information omnivores will increase 36 percent over the next three years. The majority of these new investments will be dedicated to new operational capabilities that improve collaboration and product innovation, and that are more oriented to transparency and tailored to specific market segments.

The study shows the impact of the information omnivore is driving investment in every major geography. In Europe, CEOs indicated they plan a 23 percent investment targeted at these customers over the next three years, a 20 percent jump from the previous three years. In North America, CEOs plan a 19 percent investment – jumping 27 percent over the same time period. Asia Pacific CEOs plan a 16 percent investment – a 20 percent jump -- and Latin America CEOs indicated a 16 percent investment -- jumping 18 percent over the last three years.

The Rise of the Socially-Minded Customer

CEOs agreed that customer expectations around corporate social responsibility (‘CSR’) are increasing, and that CSR will play an important role in differentiating an enterprise in the future. Customers are coalescing around organizations’ CSR profile – including, but not limited to “green” initiatives -- and are increasingly demanding socially-minded products, services, and even supply chains.

CEOs indicated that while customers have always cared about societal issues, those concerns are now more frequently turning into action as the more socially aware customer evaluates an enterprise’s CSR profile before making purchasing decisions.

To better understand and reach the new socially-minded customer, CEOs plan to increase their investments by 25 percent over the next three years, the largest percentage increase of any trend identified in the study.

The study shows that while increasing CEO concern about environmental issues has doubled over the past four years globally, this concern is not evenly distributed worldwide. Asia Pacific and European CEOs lead the world in focusing on environmental issues, followed by the Americas.

CEOs also revealed that CSR reputations are also an important tool to attract and retain employees. They are also recognizing that their organizations are being held mutually accountable, along with the public sector, for the socioeconomic well-being of the regions in which they operate.

Overall, the CEOs see opportunities in CSR and are using it for their competitive advantage. They indicated that CSR is critical to maintaining current market share..

Global Integration

The study revealed that fundamental shifts in expectations from these more demanding customers and the increased purchasing power in emerging markets are driving major changes in the business models of organizations worldwide. CEOs plan bold moves around business designs that facilitate faster and more extensive collaboration on a worldwide scale, and rapid reconfiguration when new opportunities appear.

Eighty-six percent of the CEOs surveyed plan substantial changes in the capabilities that distinguish leading organizations – their knowledge and asset mix. CEOs expect to carefully calibrate business model designs based on principles of global integration, which includes global searches for sources of expertise, resources and assets that can help it differentiate. In addition, to take advantage of global integration opportunities, 75 percent of the CEOs intend to actively enter new markets and 85 percent of the CEOs intend to partner to capitalize on global integration opportunities.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Social Networking Applications in the U.S. Take Hold and Market Experiences 191% Growth in 2007

According to research firm IDC, enterprise social networking had a break-out year in 2007 with much faster than expected growth as leading adopters started to reveal their early successes and a number of robust enterprise solutions emerged. While the market is still serviced by a wide variety of small players there was significant consolidation through mergers, acquisitions, and new products from existing players.

Additional observations of the social networking applications market include:

--The surfacing of new competitors in the form of established information access and content management vendors that build social features into their solutions.

--As an emergent market, the growth rate is high and spread unevenly between a variety of small vendors and a few larger vendors who represent a relatively large percentage of the market today. While 2007 saw some consolidation, IDC expects that 2008 will see even more.

--There is considerable functional adoption as companies deployed social networking solutions to address a wide variety of specific business challenges spanning HR, marketing/sales, engineering, channel management, and customer service functions.

--The emergence of social intelligence solutions that combine elements of web analytics, brand monitoring, and information access in order to provide management dashboards of social networks both internal and external to corporate firewalls.

--Social networking market growth will be moderated by cultural and resource limitations. Many companies will deploy social networking applications and see few benefits because of the lack of understanding or comfort with the openness required for social networking to be successful.

The higher than expected market adoption in 2007 has pushed long-term projections higher as well. While this forecast projects both slow and aggressive growth scenarios, the projected size of the market in 2012 is expected to be $1.3 billion.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Social Networks Are Attracting Too Much Traffic for Retailers to Ignore

With the increased consumer traffic that social networks are generating on the Internet, retailers must have a position on social networks, according to Gartner, Inc. Although social networks have tended to center on younger demographic groups, they are expanding into wider groups that matter to a broader base of retailers such as career-based social networks, shopping-based social networks, and employee groups.

Gartner has created a list of the top 10 things retailers should know about social networks and what action to take.

There are Social Sites, and Then There are Social Platforms
Social sites can include features such as discussion forums and consumer reviews. A social platform is a large public site that enables users to do the same things as on a social site, but also creates a platform that encourages and eases the development of applications, widgets and mashups. What a retailer is capable of doing on a social network will be determined by the platform's capabilities. Whether a retailer requires a social site, platform or both depends on where the target market resides and which social vehicles are required.

Social Network Sites Go Way Beyond MySpace and Facebook But Reconsolidation Has Started
Gartner estimates that an individual is able to participate in one to three social networks in any meaningful way. Because there are only so many social networks to participate in, consumers are starting to shift to the large centers of gravity (for example, MySpace and Facebook in North America). Analysts believe that the social network market has not yet settled, so retailers should be cautious with their investments on any one social network.

Social Networks Are Rich in Word-of-Mouth Discussions About Retailers and Products
Retailers should view social networks as a lead-generation channel just as they would search engines, review sites, and price comparison sites. Lead-generation vehicles range from banners, to search term bidding, to application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable social networks to access the retailers’ consumers.

Social Graphs Make Word-of-Mouth Relationships Known and Usable
Social graphs describe how friends are formally linked to each other on a social network. Word of mouth is effectively amplified by making social graphs usable by friends and business entities on a social network. To benefit from social graphs, Gartner says that retailers must first understand how each of the major social networks will allow them to leverage their graphs. then decide what to do with that access. For example, analysis of social graphs can be useful in discovering how consumer groups are linked together.

Viral Propagation is Boosted in Social Networking
Viral marketing is the most obvious route to take with viral propagation but must be closely monitored and managed. Communication between friends about something as simple as a pricing or promotion mistake on a Web site can propagate very quickly in social networks. Similarly a strong criticism of a product or retailer can quickly attract a large critical mass. Negative press that is virally spread is difficult to capture and public relations teams need to be well-versed in social network channels.

Applications for Social Networks are Easier to Build
The latest push in the social network world has been the focus on creating a platform that allows individuals and companies alike to build applications (sometimes called widgets) that are designed to run on the social network. Social platforms, especially Facebook, have been providing a platform and technical guidelines to make building these applications easier. Building an application is a way to more actively engage a target market, but the business outcomes of this engagement is still undetermined. Retailers should consider applications that have real shopping functions such as customer service, product selection guides and feedback mechanisms.

Social Networks Are a Huge Source of Consumer Data, but Retailers Cannot Easily Access It
Already some people are regretting having made available so much information available on social networks and access to this information will decrease further over time. However, access to some of this data can be gained by building applications that require members to agree to share some of their data in exchange for using the application. As with store loyalty cards, consumers may be willing to give up a little privacy in exchange for a valued service or discount. Expect privacy issues to make access to consumer data even tighter during the next 24 months.

Communities, Groups and Networks Can Be Created By Anyone and Are Impossible to Control
If a social network provides corporations too many capabilities in interacting with members (for example, advertising and selling), there is a risk that members will leave the network. Gartner advises retailers to build their social network presence on content produced by members and create applications that engage members in providing feedback in areas such as product design. The aim is to create a forum or application that will create value for other members while promoting the organization’s brand.

Social Networks Are Not Capable of Commerce — Yet
Gartner advises retailers against becoming an early adopter of commerce capabilities on social networks. This lessens the chances of being part of a movement that may drive away social network participants because of the perceived commercialization of the social network. It also allows organizations to better understand how commerce engines will work with social networks.

Social Networks Are Merging Into the Real-Time World — Coming to Your Mobile Phone
For now this remains an emerging consumer practice, but the ability to access social networks from mobile phones is being promoted by the wireless carriers. Examples of how this could be used include offering a limited time, in-store-only promotion that could be broadcast to friends in hopes of driving more traffic to the physical store.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Upwardly Mobile: Enterprise Mobility Investments Increase in 2008

New research from Aberdeen, a Harte-Hanks Company reveals that enterprise mobility continues to be a top investment priority in 2008. In a recent survey, 4,654 respondents reported a year-over-year increase of 7.6% in enterprise mobility as a planned spend.

In the 2008 Aberdeen Report, business professionals have also recognized mobility as one of the top three technologies that will have the greatest impact on their business over the next 3-5 years. They see growth in utilizing mobile devices to improve operational efficiencies and bridge gaps between collaborative teams. For example, one in five sales professionals surveyed identified an “increasingly mobile sales force” as a top-two factor driving sale decisions in 2008. As demands on business productivity continue to grow, so will investments in mobile solutions.

The Report further reveals how mobility has become essential to global businesses. More organizations are building a suite of organizational capabilities around policy, staff and training to move forward with a sound mobility strategy. Organizations are seeking to enhance their mobile infrastructure and connectivity to enable this trend toward workplace productivity. In fact, 69% of survey respondents stated they will be leveraging high-speed mobile data services to enable that connectivity. Another major area of investment will be the mobile devices themselves – by the end of 2008, nearly seven out of ten organizations will have deployed either Blackberry or Windows Mobile devices.

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