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The Dynamic Customer Journey

How many devices do you have within reach right this second?

How many screens? How many apps and tabs are open on each screen? Is one of them TV? An ebook? A smartphone or a tablet? Which one(s) are you paying the most attention to? How long does that attention last, and what causes you to switch channels – or devices?

As consumers flit like hummingbirds between a plethora of devices, screens and messages simultaneously, even private space is invaded with as many messages as a virtual Times Square. How can marketers and publishers harness attention when it’s so fleeting? What causes distractions? How do customers determine which channel they’ll use for what information – a search engine? A social network? SoLoMo?

What influences the dynamic customer journey, and how do experiences across channels and devices shift – or remain consistent?

These are the questions the bulk of my research will attempt to answer in the coming months, so it was interesting to see a report publish this week that also examines the dynamic customer journey. The survey, published by PulsePoint terms the phenomenon the Digital Divide. That term traditionally refers to digital technology haves and have-nots, generally divided by socio-economic lines. The survey reframes “digital divide” to refer to the rift “between consumers engaging in real-time across channels, versus the digital marketing industry that is still largely siloed and not executing in real-time.”

PulsePoint’s survey places a great deal of emphasis on the need for improved real-time marketing capabilities to address the dynamic customer journey: real-time data and analytics; dynamic content delivery systems, the ability to make faster decisions and take immediate action. Always-on has never felt so ‘always,’ or so ‘on.’

But real-time, while critical to addressing the dynamic customer journey, is far from the only element that must be mastered in terms of technology, ability and best practices.

The growing complexity of digital advertising, marketing and publishing has led to increased vertical silo-ization and channel specialization. Customers expect integration and consistency as they pursue content across multiple channels and devices, but cross- and multichannel integration is not yet one of those areas boasting its own specialists. These specialists will doubtless soon be required, and they will have to be vested with considerable power to bring disparate players to the table and encourage them to cooperate.

A changing media landscape is a major factor in the dynamic customer journey. I’m currently looking, together with my research partner Jeremiah Owyang, at how paid, earned and owned media are conflating. Customer reviews and community posts are incorporated into ad units – both examples of earned media becoming paid media. Ads become content in online channels, particularly campaigns with high viral or entertainment value. Facebook wall posts (owned media) morph into paid ad units.

As fluidly as consumers switch screens, so does content flit between paid, earned and owned channels. Do consumers differentiate between these channels? We believe less and less, if at all. In the end, content is what matters because content is, after all, what these dynamic, fast-moving consumers are pursuing.

How can marketers influence these journeys? Through users’ social graphs, via experts, commercial media or through their own owned channels?

That’s what we’re trying to uncover and we want to hear from you. Tell us on your blog or website how the dynamic customer journey is impacting your business, and we’ll cross-link to the conversation here and on the Altimeter Group blog.

Image Credit: PulsePoint Digital Divide

A version of this post also appeared on iMedia

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Publishing In Today's Digital, Social Reading Environment

Reading. It’s a fundamentally solitary pastime that’s becoming increasingly more social given the baked-in functionalities of e-reading devices (Tweet this!).

It’s also – surprise! – an activity on the upswing for a couple of reasons: a proliferation of e-reading devices that are plummeting in price, and consumers’ broad acceptance of reading content on phones and computers (not necessarily on Kindles and Nooks), as a new e-reading study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals.

Let’s look at some of the findings from The Rise of e-Reading, then indulge in a bit of speculation about where all this digital content consumption might be headed.

Pew found that consumers who read on digital devices not only read more stuff (not just books, but magazines and other long-form content), but they also buy significantly more reading material. This cohort is growing in numbers at an astonishing rate.

Read the rest of this column on

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Mobile Strategies for Retailers (and Marketers)

There are three types of content marketing: the two types everyone immediately 'gets' (entertainment content and educational content), and #3, which generally takes a while to sink it. I call it utility content. It's not narrative. It doesn't tell a story or teach you how to do something. Instead, it does something for you.

Think online mortgage calculators, or those forms that figure out what you should weigh based on height, age and gender. They're wonderful content for sites that sell financial instruments or diet-related products. Yet increasingly often, utility content is mobile. Apps help consumers find goods and services on the go, deposit a check in the bank, and perhaps first and foremost, to shop.

My colleague Chris Silva has just published a research report "Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers" (embedded below). Marketers can learn a lot from reading it, too. Outlining successful mobile strategies from the likes of Best Buy, Starbucks and Zappos.

The report divides retail mobile app strategy into two umbrella channels; Enrich, or drive transactions; and Engage, to improve user interaction and brand affinity. It then walks readers through the strategy and development steps for turning a concept into an app.

If you're a retailer, you need to read this report. If you're a marketer working in, or considering mobile channels, you really ought to. Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers

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What’s Facebook Going to Do with All That Money?

Many of us grew up with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. For the past few years the refrain has been Google, Google, Google. But this past week, it’s been all Facebook, all the time.

As we wait for the biggest IPO in tech history to shake out, the question I’m being asked most by clients and especially the mainstream media is, by far, “what’s Facebook going to do with all that money?”

I’d love it if “One Buck Zuck” would send me a check. Barring that, some reasonable conjectures can be drawn.

  1. Mobile Facebook’s S-1 filing contained all the usual risk disclaimers: changing market conditions, loss of key executives, that stuff. But there was one zinger in the boilerplate – Facebook’s statement that mobile is growing fast, and that the company can’t yet monetize it. It’s not too much of a leap from there to the conclusion that multiple millions of dollars can be applied to figuring this one out. An article published the day after the filing suggests we’ll see the first Facebook mobile ads in March. Yet mobile means different things to different users, fast as the channel is growing. Smartphones, tablets…when it comes to mobile advertising, Facebook will require more than one solution. And that’s to say nothing of Facebook Credits and other commerce opportunities on mobile platforms. There’s plenty of R&D opportunity for Facebook across the mobile spectrum.
  2. Data Data is Facebook’s core product. Not only do they have more of it every day on their users, that data is getting increasingly complex. In addition to basic demographic data, there’s friends and friends-of-friends. Groups they’re a part of, companies worked at, Likes, and soon, Actions, what they’re reading, listening to, eating and buying are only the beginning. Managing this data, parsing it, and making it useful and actionable to advertisers and marketers in ways that can help increase user engagement, create newer and more premium advertising products, extract deeper meaning and clarity from stores of data so complex it very nearly qualifies as big data is challenging, to say the least. It’s also critical to Facebook’s future. Data is what Facebook sells.
  3. Platform What’s next for Facebook’s platform? It’s currently central to a vital Facebook economy. Without that platform, companies ranging from Zynga to Buddy Media would hardly exist as we know them today. Media companies from the Wall Street Journal to Spotfiy wouldn’t be able to reach and interact with Facebook users. It’s critical to keep that platform open and to continually expand upon its scope. Is social commerce the next comer? Features that link Facebook more deeply into the real world? Without the platform, Facebook doesn’t have the data, so watch for new developments in this arena, too.
  4. Acquisitions Remember when Google was just a search engine? That was years ago, before YouTube, Blogger, Analytics and a host of other features that now seem integral to the company, but once upon a time were acquisitions. Google has largely become a roll-up, and Facebook could begin to follow that path as well (maybe by buying a search engine and finally incorporating real search into its platform?). Sure, Facebook’s made some small acquisitions in the past, but these are broadly viewed as more a bid to acquire talent, not technology. With a mind-boggling bank balance, that may well change.
  5. 5). Talent Silicon Valley engineers are high in demand, and you have to find a way to bring them to your company. In Facebook’s case, it’s not longer possible to do this with the lure of pre-IPO stock options. Facebook will soon be forced to pay a premium for new talent, particularly as some of an estimated 500 to 1,000 newly minted millionaires cash out. Sure, some will buy houses and cars. But others will yearn to get back to start-up culture. They’ll start new ventures, or even finance them. Facebook will pay more for talent in the long run, but their IPO will help to spark Silicon Valley’s economy, and that can only mean good things for innovation.
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What the Decline of Print Means for Digital

Plenty of sobering news about the print industry has been released over the past week.

Yes, print is in steep decline. So is print advertising. It's important not only to ponder and understand why print is declining so precipitously now, but also to draw some lines into the future and understand how this trend might impact digital media going forward. The implications are big for advertisers and publishers alike.

The most stunning story is from eMarketer, predicting that online advertising will surpass print ad spend -- this year.

The firm estimates digital newspaper ad revenue in the U.S. grew 8.3 percent to $3.3 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, newspaper print ad revenue dropped 9.3 percent to $20.7 billion. Magazines fare only slightly better. In the U.S., print ad revenue is expected to rise a below-anemic 0.5 percent to $15.34 billion this year, up from $15.3 billion last year. Digital magazine ad spending grew 18.8 percent to $2.7 billion last year.

This is due not only to the internet, of course, but to a proliferation of mobile devices that decouple newspapers and magazines from dead-tree publishing. It's already happened with books; e-reader editions outsell both paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon, and have for some time.

As e-reader devices conflate with tablets (think: Kindle Fire), readers are inevitably eschewing print in higher numbers still. Among tablet owners, according to a recent International Data Group survey, 72 percent of professionals worldwide say they're buying less since owning a tablet. Seventy percent buy fewer physical books, and 49 percent buy fewer DVDs. (And naturally, readers who can afford tablets are in a much more desirable demographic to most advertisers than those who cannot.)

Like Facebook adoption a few years ago, tablet adoption is in its hockey-stick phase. There were 64.7 million tablets in the world globally at the end of 2011, according to IHS iSuppli. By the end of 2015, that number will metastasize to 287.2 million.

What can be interpolated from all these trends -- a proliferation of tablets, content migrating to digital formats, advertising dollars accelerating their shift to digital from print -- is that not only print is changing. The ways that print adopts to digital formats is changing as well in ways that will fundamentally change the use and perception of the written word over the next few years. Writing has always been literally flat and two-dimensional. That's going to change -- and very soon.

Already, there's a growing market for enhanced ebooks, books created for digital formats that go beyond flat text into video, audio, games, and other multimedia and interactive features. As prices for tablets plummet (the Kindle Fire is priced at just over $100, and you can get a free Nook by signing up for a year of The New York Times), books will become more like apps. In fact, it will soon be hard to delineate where "book" stops and "digital platform" begins.

Before purists get all up in arms, don't worry. There will always be plain-text versions of the Bible, Shakespeare, "War and Peace," and other classics of literature. But going forward, publishers will look very closely at how they can enhance the titles in their catalogues, or turn books into a single component of transmedia storytelling.

Marketers, take note. These changes in the written word -- how it's conceived, presented, and experienced -- apply to you, too. For a soon to be published research report on content marketing, we recently interviewed 56 marketers, many of them at Fortune 500 companies, about the content channels they're using. They were asked what's important now, what channels are diminishing in effectiveness, and where they plan to place more marketing emphasis in both the short and long term future.

Overwhelmingly, these marketers say they're looking to video in the future (with mobile running a close second). "Visual information" is on the rise overall. What's on the decline? Articles. Columns. Digital PR. Long-form content. White papers.

Do you see a trend here? I do. The written word is in decline in digital channels. It won't ever vanish, but it is diminishing and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Publishers and marketers alike are compelled to start considering, now, how to add more visual and multimedia material to written pieces to make them stand out, to encourage opt-in and tune-in from target audiences, to deliver appropriate content to mobile platforms, and to make complex information easily and visually digestible -- in a hurry. (Infographics are becoming very, very popular with marketers, as are charticles with publishers.)

Now, this is not a call for hysteria (the written word is dead!) or over-reactive fiats (nothing we produce can contain words anymore, ever!). Both those statements are utterly false and nonsensical.

But we are seeing some very real and very fast moving trends here: a shift away from paper and on to digital devices; advertisers following those eyeballs; changing consumer expectations as they consume written content on faster, cheaper, multimedia-capable devices; and marketers' need to create and deliver messaging that's experiential, compelling, engaging, and that drives the message home in an easily digestible format.

So, that white paper your department is working on? By all means publish it as a written document. But at the same time, you'd better start concocting ways to deliver its message in interactive, digital, visual, and multimedia environments.

Or risk being the sound of the proverbial dead tree falling in a very dense forest.

Cross-posted from iMediaConnection 


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A Mass Audience for Mobile?

What will it take to achieve mass in mobile?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately (in part because I'll be addressing it at Publishing Apps Expo in a keynote tomorrow). There's a lot that stands between mobile, its audience and advertisers: platform incompatibility, development problems, and just plain old lack of a real advertising model. Mobile tends to conflate utility and content into new hybrids we don't intuitively understand yet.

So it was interesting being briefed yesterday on Flipboard's next foray out of the iPad and into the iPhone. As you'd expect from one of the most visually stunning iPad apps, great care was taken to adopt Flipboard to its new and inherently more mobile home on a smaller screen.

Co-founder Evan Doll expained the new app is intended to "fill in the gaps in daily moments," like standing in line at the coffee shop. Browsing is therefore one-handed, flipping is vertical.

What's really compelling is how this new Flipboard aggregates content into just one app. Not just newspapers and magazines, but also social activity from multiple sources including Facebook and Twitter. This indicates the iPhone version of Flipboard could be the go-to app for iPhone owners. It puts a lot of information into one place with one very pleasing and intuitive interface.

Why this matters from a media perspective is that we're a long way - a very long way - from mobile mass media. In fact, we'll likely never get there. But by migrating to the iPhone from the iPad, Flipboard has put itself with reach of millions more users than it's already more-than-respectable 4M user base. And it's built compelling content into a beautiful, intuitive UX.

Exactly the direction mobile needs to take to become attractive to advertisers.

Update: The service has proven so popular that Flipboard services have gone down. See what I mean?

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Talking Tablets & Super Bowl with Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble

Delivering observational sound bytes is part and parcel of the job of an analysts (and a very enjoyable part at that).  Even more exciting is the rare opportunity to swap opinions and observations with one of the most respected observers and interviewers in all of digital.

I was lucky enough to have just such an opportunity when a visit this week to Altimeter Group's San Mateo HQ coincided with none other than Robert Scoble paying us a visit. We've met in the past, but my heart sunk when I sat down to do an interview with him and reminded him my coverage area is advertising and media. "No one cares about advertising but the companies that sell it," proclaimed The Scobleizer, who said maybe we should hold off on talking until some big advertising event in the future, like the Super Bowl.

No interview? Oh noes! #Fail.

We continued on with an amiable offline chat, until I mentioned that next month's big game will be the first Super Bowl in which tablet use could likely dominate secondary media consumption. Scoble pricked up his ears and our interview was underway. You can listen to it here.

II also recommend listening to his much longer and more in-depth four-part discussion with my Altimeter Group colleague Susan Etlinger.  

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Why Isn't There More "Immersive" Advertising?

What ever happened to “immersive”?

You know, those campaigns that are so absorbing, so experiential, so deep and rich and mesmerizing that the viewer/audience/consumer is swept up in the experience. Transported, and in some small way, transformed. They’re also compelled to share and pass on campaigns like this. Truly immersive ads are always viral.

Digital was supposed to be more immersive than present reality allows. Arguably, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken was immersive. People spent hours commanding the chicken to do things, and even hacking the chicken to do NSFW things. According to the advertiser, the campaign even sparked a spike in the sales of the chicken sandwich it oh, so subtly promoted.

As digital technology has evolved, you’d think there would be more immersive campaigns, wouldn’t you? We’ve learned and grown, have more tools at our disposal and sophisticated developers who can manipulate them, working in tandem with inspired creatives.

I’m not talking world-class video here. Not to denigrate top-notch video, but even at its best video is engaging, not immersive. I’m making that call because video – even digital video – is so rarely interactive, even when it is beautiful and breathtaking.

What recent campaigns have been genuinely immersive? Not a lot comes to mind. Two are Facebook integrations. First, Intel’s breathtaking Museum of Me,  Intel's visual representation of your social life as a museum installation.  Because the rich, sweeping and breathtaking visuals pull data from the viewer’s Facebook profile,  some critics decried the initiative as creepy.

The Museum of Me wasn’t as creepy by half as its evil twin, Take This Lollipop. This Facebook integration (now offline, with a page cryptically stating “it has begun”) was the fastest-growing Facebook application ever. But it wasn’t a marketing campaign, but rather a side project by Jason Zada who, according to Mashable, created OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself.

Another fairly recent example of a truly immersive execution was the Google Chrome HTML5 experiment, The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive film built on (among other things) Google Maps. It eventually brings the viewer home. Literally.

What do all these immersive campaigns share in common? The oldest, most hackneyed truest truism in digital marketing: it’s about the user. All these executions are, literally, about the user, who is front and center in the action. The viewer is the star of the show, and firmly in the driver’s seat.

So why aren’t we seeing more of this highly creative and utterly interactive immersive stuff?

In many ways, what technology enables, technology taketh away. At least, it does in this still early stage of  digital evolution.

As rapidly as the cool new technologies are being rolled out that enable this stuff, so too are new platforms (especially mobile ones) being introduced every day on which they’re incompatible. Even on PCs, they require updated browsers and installed plug-ins.

Making an app? Is it for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire or Blackberry? Digitally, we still live in an era many of us have experienced before. Bet you remember some of these: 8-track or cassette? Betamax or VHS? Regular DVD or Blu-ray flavor?

The point? To be immersive, a campaign has to be really, really interactive. But it also has to provide an utterly flawless user experience. Otherwise, it’s immersive in all the wrong ways.

It’s hard to conceive how, with a proliferation of new technologies and new platforms, many of which have not yet figured out how to meet in the middle, campaigns can be truly immersive – and reach everyone.

We’re just not there yet.                  

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CMOs Want Technology and Content

I spent this afternoon immersed in a briefing on IBM's most recent research effort, perhaps the most exhaustive survey of CMOs ever conducted. In a four month period, the company interviewed over 1,700 CMOs in 64 countries to learn more about their priorities and their pain points. The full report is available for download (registration required).

There are many fascinating insights in the report, as well as much information that's validating, if unsurprising (CMOs feel they need to better understand social media, data, and technology in general, for example). Two tables are of particular interest given the rise of content marketing and social media.

When asked in which areas they plan to increase the use of technology, responses are overwhelmingly geared toward content-oriented initiatives. Social media, content management, tablet applications - all these are heavily oriented toward the creation of content, not advertising and not direct marketing. SEO made the list, but search advertising didn't. Less than half plan to invest in more email technology - unthinkable a mere five years ago.

Of course, this naturally doesn't mean CMOs plan to abandon email marketing (or any of the aforementioned channels). But these planned investments indicate that worldwide, companies want to create content, interest and dialogue with customers and prospects.

This indication is borne out in their plans for partnerships. In the chart on the left, red indicates near-term, yellow longer-term plans. Call and service centers, community development, and new media strategy outweigh more traditional agency considerations for either traditional or digital advertising.

These are all themes I'll be digging into shortly in a research project: how organizations are reallocating both internal and external marketing resources to balance their need for advertising with the demands of content, social media and conversational marketing  

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What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Mobile?

What do we talk about when we talk about mobile? Increasingly, the landscape is muddled. Having spent Advertising Week in session after session on mobile media and advertising, both at MIXX and the Mobile Media Summit, not once did a speaker say specifically what they were talking about when using the term "mobile."

To contextualize any discussion of mobile marketing or media these days, the entire arena must be addressed with a much greater level of specificity. Raise this point with people who live and breathe mobile and the first reaction is, "Oh! I get it. You mean whether it's iPad or smartphone, right?"

Only sort of right. Because defining device is just the tip of the mobile iceberg. And let's get one thing straight - straight off: mobile is not as simple as tablet vs. phone. Mobile can encompass laptop computers. Mobile gaming devices. Kindles and other e-readers. Non-smart (dumb?) mobile phones are mobile devices, and so are a panoply of digitally connected gizmos, such as Bluetooth headsets and those NFC-enabled car keys BMW is developing to do stuff in the real world other than unlock your car door (the internet of things - that's a whole other discussion).

While all the above are mobile, they're mobile in extraordinarily different ways. Plenty of mobile advertising is highly geo- or location specific. So do devices such as laptops, without GPS or other location functionality, now qualify as "mobile" within this context? Not for many ads, apps or media. Can the device handle a QR code? That's pretty essential to many of these discussions. Barcode scanners are part of the standard Android deck, but optional add-ons in the iOS environment. Flash works on some of these things, but not on others.

So now that we've narrowed our discussion of mobile media and marketing to a specific device or two, can just we move on? Not so fast. Media and ad formats vary by device, by size, and by carrier. Apps are robust on some platforms, while not available on others. Consumer behavior varies radically not only between devices, but as research is beginning to indicate, on and app-by-app basis even when the device in question remains the same.

Perhaps this inability to reach any level of granularity or specificity is why that elusive "year of mobile" is yet to arrive (unless it's already come and gone?). How will we know it when we see it if the terms aren't defined? It's easy to understand why mobile advocates shy away from fine distinctions. Mobile marketing and media are still nascent - even more so than the rest of digital. Only in a landscape developing this quickly, and with new devices with new levels of functionality coming onto the market seemingly every month, delineations and definitions become only more critical.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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