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Chris Neal

Recent Posts

Passive Mobile Behavioral Data – Part Deux

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Aug 10, 2016

Over the past two years, we've  embarked on a quest to help the insights industry get better at harnessing passive mobile behavioral data. In 2015, we partnered with Research Now for an analysis37824990_thumbnail.jpg of mobile wallet usage, using unlinked passive and survey-based data. This year, we teamed up with Research Now once again for research-on-research directly linking actual mobile traffic and app data to consumers’ self-reported online shopper journey behavior.

We asked over 1,000 shoppers, across a variety of Black Friday/Cyber Monday categories, a standard set of purchase journey survey questions immediately after the event, then again after 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. We then compared their self-reported online and mobile behavior to the actual mobile app and website usage data from their smartphones. 

The results deepened our understanding of how best to use (and not use) each respective data source, and how combining both can help our clients get closer to the truth than they could using any single source of information.

Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself tasked with a purchase journey project that uses one or both of these data sources as fuel for insights and recommendations:

  1. Most people use multiple devices for a major purchase journey, and here’s why you should care:
    • Any device tracking platform (even one claiming a 3600 view) is likely missing some relevant online behavior to a given shopper journey. In our study, we were getting behavior from their primary smartphone, but many of these consumers reported visiting websites we had no record of from our tracking data. Although they reported visiting these websites on their smartphones, it is likely that some of these visits happened on their personal computer, a tablet, a computer at their work, etc.
  2. Not all mobile usage is related to the purchase journey you care about:
    • We saw cases of consumers whose behavioral data showed they’d visited big retail websites and mobile apps during the purchase journey but who did not report using these sites/apps as part of the journey we asked them about. This is a bigger problem with larger, more generalist mobile websites and apps (like Amazon, for this particular project, or like PayPal when we did the earlier Mobile Wallet study with a similar methodological exercise).
  3. Human recall ain’t perfect. We all know this, but it’s important to understand when and where it’s less perfect, and where it’s actually sufficient for our purposes. Using survey sampling to analyze behaviors can be enormously valuable in a lot of different situations, but understand the limitations and when you are expecting too much detail from somebody to give you accurate data to work with.  Here are a few situations to consider:
    • Asking whether a given retailer, brand, or major web property figured into the purchase journey at all will give you pretty good survey data to work with. Smaller retailers, websites, and apps will get more misses/lack of recall, but accurate recall is a proxy for influence, and if you’re ultimately trying to figure out how best to influence a consumer’s purchase journey, self-reported recall of visits is a good proxy, whereas relying on behavioral data alone may inflate the apparent impact of smaller properties on the final purchase journey.
    • Asking people to remember whether they used the mobile app vs. the mobile website introduces more error in your data. Most websites are now mobile optimized and look/ feel like mobile apps, or will switch users to the native mobile app on their phone automatically if possible.
      • In this particular project, we saw evidence of a 35-50% improvement in survey-behavior match rates if we did not require respondents to differentiate the mobile website from the mobile app for the same retailer.
  4. Does time-lapse matter? It depends.
    • For certain activities (e.g., making minor purchases in grocery store, a TV viewing occasion), capturing in-the-moment feedback from consumers is critical for accuracy.
    • In other situations where the process is bigger, involves more research, or is more memorable in general (e.g., buying a car, having a wedding, or making a planned-for purchase based on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal): you can get away with asking people about it further out from the actual event.
      • In this particular project, we actually found no systematic evidence of recall deterioration when we ran the survey immediately after Black Friday/Cyber Monday vs. running it 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days after.

Working with passive mobile behavioral data (or any digital passive data) is challenging, no doubt.  Trying to make hay by combining these data with primary research survey sampling, customer databases, transactional data, etc., can be even more challenging.  But, like it or not, that’s where Insights is headed. We’ll continue to push the envelope in terms of best practices for navigating these types of engagements as Analytics teams, Insights departments, Financial Planning and Strategy groups work together more seamlessly to provide senior executives with a “single version of the truth”— one which is more accurate than any previously siloed version.

Chris Neal leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He knows full well that data scientists and programmatic ad buying bots are analyzing his every click on every computing device and is perfectly OK with that as long as they serve up relevant ads. Nothing to hide!

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Topics: advanced analytics, mobile, passive data, integrated data

Mobile Passive Behavioral Data: Opportunities and Pitfalls

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jul 21, 2015

By Chris Neal and Dr. Jay Weiner

Hands with phonesAs I wrote in last week’s post, we recently conducted an analysis of mobile wallet use in the U.S. To make it interesting, we used unlinked passive mobile behavioral data alongside survey-based data.In this post, I’ve teamed up with Jay Weiner—our VP of Analytics who helped me torture analyze the mobile passive behavioral data for this Mobile Wallet study—to share some of the typical challenges you may face when working with passive mobile behavioral data (or any type of passive behavioral data for that matter) along with some best practices for dealing with these challenges:

  1. Not being able to link mobile usage to individualsThere’s a lot of online passive data out there (mobile app usage ratings, web usage ratings by device type, social media monitoring, etc.) that is at the aggregate level and cannot be reliably attributed to individuals. These data have value, to be sure, but aggregate traffic data can sometimes be very misleading. This is why—for the Mobile Wallet project CMB did—we sourced mobile app and mobile web usage from the Research Now mobile panel where it is possible to attribute mobile usage data to individuals (and have additional profiling information on these individuals). 

    When you’re faced with aggregate level data that isn’t linked to individuals, we recommend either getting some sample from a mobile usage panel in order to understand and calibrate your results better and/or doing a parallel survey-sampling so you can make more informed assumptions (this holds true for aggregate search trend data, website clickstream data, and social media listening tools).
  1. Unstacking the passive mobile behavioral data. Mobile behavioral data that is linked to individuals typically comes in “stacked” form, i.e., every consumer tracked has many different records: one for each active mobile app or mobile website session. Analyzing this data in its raw form is very useful for understanding overall mobile usage trends. What these stacked behavioral data files do not tell you, however, is the reach or incidence (e.g., how many people or the percentage of an addressable market) of any given mobile app/website. It also doesn’t tell you the mobile session frequency or duration characteristics of different consumer types nor does it allow you to profile types of people with different mobile behaviors. 

    Unstacking a mobile behavioral data file can sometimes end up being a pretty big programming task, so we recommend deciding upfront exactly which apps/websites you want to “unstack.” A typical behavioral data file that tracks all smartphone usage during a given period of time can involve thousands of different apps and websites. . .and the resulting unstacked data file covering all of these could quickly become unwieldy.
  1. Beware the outlier! Unstacking a mobile behavioral data file will reveal some pretty extreme outliers. We all know about outliers, right? In survey research, we scrub (or impute) open-ended quant responses that are three standard deviations higher than the mean response, we take out some records altogether if they claim to be planning to spend $6 billion on their next smartphone purchase, and so on. But outliers in passive data can be quite extreme. In reviewing the passive data for this particular project, I couldn’t help but recall that delightful Adobe Marketing ad in which a baby playing with his parents’ tablet repeatedly clicks the “buy” button for an encyclopedia company’s e-commerce site, setting off a global stock bubble. 

    Here is a real-world example from our mobile wallet study that illustrates just how wide the range is of mobile behaviors across even a limited group of consumers: the overall “average” time spent using a mobile wallet app was 162 minutes, but the median time was only 23 minutes. A very small (<1% of total) portion of high-usage individuals created an average that grossly inflated the true usage snapshot of the majority of users. One individual spent over 3,000 minutes using a mobile wallet app.
  1. Understand what is (and what is not) captured by a tracking platform. Different tracking tools do different things and produce different data to analyze. In general, it’s very difficult to capture detailed on-device usage for iOS devices. . .most platforms set up a proxy that instead captures and categorizes the IP addresses that the device transmits data to/from. In our Mobile Wallet study, as one example, our mobile behavioral data did not pick up any Apple Pay usage because it leverages NFC to conduct the transaction between the smartphone and the NFC terminal at the cash register (without any signal ever being transmitted out to the mobile web or to any external mobile app, which is how the platform captured mobile usage).   There are a variety of tricks of the trade to account for these phenomenon and to adjust your analysis so you can get close to a real comparison, but you need to understand what things aren’t picked up by passive metering in order to apply them correctly.
  1. Categorize apps and websites. Needless to say, there are many different mobile apps and websites that people use, and many of these do a variety of different things and are used for a variety of different purposes. Additionally, the distribution of usage across many niche apps and websites is often not useful for any meaningful insights work unless these are bundled up into broader categories. 

    Some panel sources—including Research Now’s mobile panel—have existing mobile website and app categories, which are quite useful. For many custom projects, however, you’ll need to do the background research ahead of time in order to have meaningful categories to work with. Fishing expeditions are typically not a great analysis plan in any scenario, but they are out of the question if you’re going to dive into a big mobile usage data file.

    As you work to create meaningful categories for analysis, be open to adjusting and iterating. A certain group of specific apps might not yield the insight you were looking for. . .learn from the data you see during this process then try new groupings of apps and websites accordingly.
  1. Consider complementary survey sampling in parallel with behavioral analysis. During our iterative process of attempting to categorize mobile apps from reviewing passive mobile behavioral data, we were relieved to have a complementary survey sampling data set that helped us make some very educated guesses about how or why people were using different apps. For example, PayPal has a very successful mobile app that is widely used for a variety of reasons—peer-to-peer payments, ecommerce payments, and, increasingly, for “mobile wallet” payments at a physical point of sale. The passive behavioral data we had could not tell us what proportion of different users’ PayPal mobile app usage was for which purpose. That’s a problem because if we were relying on passive data alone to tell our clients what percent of smartphone users have used a mobile wallet to pay at a physical point of sale, we could come up with grossly inflated numbers. As an increasing number of mobile platforms add competing functionality (e.g., Facebook now has mobile payments functionality), this will remain a challenge.

    Passive tracking platforms will no doubt crack some of these challenges accurately, but some well-designed complementary survey sampling can go a long way towards helping you read the behavioral tea leaves with greater confidence. It can also reveal differences between actual vs. self-reported behavior that are valuable for businesses (e.g., a lot of people may say they really want a particular mobile functionality when asked directly, but if virtually no one is actually using existing apps that provide this functionality then perhaps your product roadmap can live without it for the next launch).

Want to learn more about the future of Mobile Wallet? Join us for a webinar on August 19, and we’ll share our insights with you!

Chris Neal leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He judges every survey he takes and every website he visits by how it looks on his 4” smartphone screen, and has sworn off buying a larger “phablet” screen size because it wouldn’t fit well in his Hipster-compliant skinny jeans.

Dr. Jay heads up the analytics group at CMB. He opted for the 6 inch “phablet” and baggy jeans.  He does look stupid talking to a brick. He’s busy trying to compute which event has the higher probability: his kids texting him back or his kids completing an online questionnaire. Every month, he answers your burning market research questions in his column: Dear Dr. Jay. Got a question? Ask it here!

Want to learn more about combining survey data with passive mobile behavioral data? Watch our recent webinar with Research Now that discusses these findings in depth.

Watch Now!

Topics: advanced analytics, methodology, data collection, mobile, Dear Dr. Jay, webinar, passive data

Upcoming Webinar: Passive Mobile Behavioral Data + Survey Data

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Jul 13, 2015

mobile research, mobile data collection, The explosion of mobile web and mobile app usage presents enormous opportunities for consumer insights professionals to deepen their understanding of consumer behavior, particularly for “in the moment” findings and tracking consumers over time (when they aren’t actively participating in research. . .which is 99%+ of the time for most people). Insight nerds like us can’t ignore this burgeoning wealth of data—it is a potential goldmine. But, working with passive mobile behavioral data brings with it plenty of challenges, too. It looks, smells, and feels very different from self-reported survey data:

  • It’s big. (I’m not gonna drop the “Big Data” buzzword in this blog post, but—yep—the typical consumer does indeed use their smartphone quite a bit.)
  • It’s messy.
  • We don’t have the luxury of carefully curating it in the same way we do with survey sampling. 

As we all find ourselves increasingly tasked with synthesizing insights and a cohesive “story” using multiple data sources, we’re finding that mobile usage and other data sources don’t always play nicely in the sandbox with survey data. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses that we need to understand in order to use them most effectively. 

So, in our latest in a series of sadomasochistic self-funded thought leadership experiments, we decided to take on a challenge similar in nature to what more and more companies will ask insights departments to do: use passive mobile behavioral data alongside survey-based data for a single purpose. In this case, the topic was an analysis of the U.S. mobile wallet market opportunity. To make things extra fun, we ensured that the passive mobile behavioral data was completely unlinked to the survey data (i.e., we could not link the two data sources at the respondent level for deeper understanding or to do attitudinal + behavioral based modeling). There are situations where you’ll be given data that is linked, but currently—more often than not—you’ll be working with separate silos and asked to make hay.

During this experiment, a number of things became very clear to us, including:

  • the actual value that mobile behavioral data can bring to business engagements
  • how it could easily produce misleading results if you don’t properly analyze the data
  • how survey data and passive mobile behavioral data can complement one another greatly

Interested? I’ll be diving deep into these findings (and more) along with Roddy Knowles of Research Now in a webinar this Thursday, July 16th at 1pm ET (11am PT). Please join us by registering here

Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Watch our recent webinar with Research Now to hear the results of our recent self-funded Consumer Pulse study that leveraged passive mobile behavioral data and survey data simultaneously to reveal insights into the current Mobile Wallet industry in the US.

Watch Now!

Topics: advanced analytics, methodology, data collection, mobile, webinar, passive data, integrated data

Tablet Purchase Journey Relies Heavily on Mobile Web

Posted by Chris Neal

Thu, Oct 16, 2014

consumer pulse, tabletsWe all know the consumer purchase journey has changed dramatically since the “mobile web” explosion and continues to evolve rapidly. In order to understand the current state of this evolving journey, CMB surveyed 2,000 recent buyers of tablets in the U.S. We confirmed several things that we expected to see, but we also busted a few myths along the way: 

1. TRUE: “Online media and advertising are now essential to influence consumers.”

  • Reading about tablets online and online advertisements are the top ways in which consumers learn about new brands or products. [Tweet this.]
  • Nearly everyone we surveyed does some type of research and evaluation online before buying—most commonly using online-only shopping sites (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.), general web searches, consumer electronics store websites, review websites (e.g., CNET, Engadget, etc.), or tablet manufacturer websites.

2. TRUE: “The mobile web is becoming more important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • Over half of buyers use the mobile web during the research and evaluation phase, and nearly 40% of buyers do so as a part of the final purchase decision (although very few people actually purchase a tablet using a mobile device). [Tweet this.]

3. FALSE: Mobile applications are becoming very important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • Although the mobile web is now highly influential, very little purchase journey activity actually happens from within a mobile application per se. This could be because tablet purchasing isn’t something that happens frequently for more individual consumers (high-frequency activities lend themselves better to a dedicated app to expedite and track them). [Tweet this.]

4. FALSE: “Social Media is becoming very important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • The purchase journey for tablets is indeed very “social” (i.e., word-of-mouth and consumer reviews are hugely influential), but precious little of this socialization actually happens on social media platforms in the case of U.S. tablet buyers. [Tweet this.]

5. FALSE: “The Brick and Mortar Retail Store is Dead.”

  • The rise of all things online does not spell the death of brick and mortar retail in the consumer electronics category. In-store experiences (including speaking with retail sales associated and doing hands-on demos of tablets) were one of the top sources of influence during the research and evaluation phase, regardless of whether they ultimately bought their tablet in a physical store. 
  • Next to ads, in-store experiences were the top source of awareness for new tablet brands and models. 41% of those who learned about new makes/models during the process did so inside of a physical retail store. [Tweet this.]
  • Half of all buyers surveyed actually bought their tablet in a physical retail store. [Tweet this.]

6. TRUE: The line between “online” and “offline” purchase journeys is becoming blurred.

  • Most people use both online and offline sources during their purchase journey, and they typically influence one another. People doing research online may discover that a tablet model they are interested in is on sale at a particular retailer. At the same time, something a retail sales associate recommends to a shopper in a store may spur an online search in order to read other consumer reviews and see where they can get the recommended model the cheapest and fastest. Smartphone-based activities from within a retail store are just as common as interacting with an actual salesperson face-to-face at this point. 

The mobile web is undoubtedly here to stay, and how consumers go about making various different buying decisions will continue to evolve along with future changes in the mobile web. Here at CMB, we will continue to help companies and brands adapt to these shifts.

Download the full report. 

For more on our mobile stitching methodology, please see CMB's Chris Neal's webinar with Research Now: Watch the Webinar

Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: technology research, mobile, path to purchase, advertising, Consumer Pulse, passive data, retail research, customer journey

CRE Research: Following the Path of Mobile Content

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Aug 26, 2013

It’s always exciting when we get the opportunity to conduct research that garners interest from everyone from the guy staring at his tablet on the train to the executives of the largest media companies in the world. We got that chance, when CMB partnered with the Council for Research Excellence to lead a study exploring how mobile media devices (tablets, phones, and laptops) impact overall television viewing behavior.

Highlights of the study include:

  • Mobile TV viewers tend to be younger (mean age 35), higher income professionals with graduate degrees, and reflect more ethnic diversity than non-mobile-TV users;

  • Mobile TV viewers are often heavy overall TV viewers and are more likely than non-mobile-TV viewers to be TV show opinion leaders and to use social media to talk about TV.

  • Viewers are more commonly engaged when watching TV on a mobile device than when watching on a television set: they are less commonly doing unrelated tasks on other devices, and more commonly doing activities related to the show they are watching (e.g., looking up info about the show, posting about the show on social networks, etc.) when on a mobile device.

You can download the report here: TV Untethered: Following the Path of Mobile Content

Watch the presentation here: 


Posted by Chris Neal. Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: technology research, mobile, digital media and entertainment research

IT Myth-Busters: A Review of the Current Hype Cycle

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Jun 19, 2013

TrueFalseOne of the things I love most about my job is that I get to see what’s really going on in the minds of the people who do (or would) actually pay for B2B technology solutions, while at the same time observing industry trade press hype cycles and B2B marketing trends from solution providers. Sometimes these sync; sometimes they don’t. So let’s take a look at a few things currently waxing in the hype cycle that are “real,” and some other current conventional wisdom that doesn’t jive with what I’ve been seeing on the ground.  TREND #1: EVOLUTION OF IT BUYING AUTHORITY AWAY FROM CENTRAL IT DEPARTMENTS

Fact: It is indeed true that decision-making authority at many companies is moving away from central IT and towards non-IT executives or within business units. This is more commonly happening with functionally-specific applications and/or mobile devices. It is not happening in areas like data center infrastructure, networking and IT security. 

Myth: IT departments are actively trying to control all aspects of the IT buying process at companies.

  • The truth is, IT Pros I survey or interview are focused on aligning IT with business needs, actively listening and reacting to requests from senior management, LoB managers and end-user employees. They follow up with these requests to do more detailed research of specific solutions and alternatives to present different options with informed recommendations, and the vet any potential new application or device for security and network performance requirements.

 Myth: IT departments think they have total control over all IT buying when in fact much of it happens without their knowledge. 

  • IT Pros I survey still think they have more involvement/authority than non-IT executives, LoB managers and end-users say they do, but that “reality perception” gap has been shrinking over the years. Now, many IT Departments acknowledge that identifying the need for new technology solutions and even a lot of the researching and recommendation of specific tools and brands comes from non-IT departments.


Fact: The consumerization of IT is accelerating and more employees want to use personal devices, apps and software for work purposes. 

Myth:  IT departments are always fighting the consumerization of IT trend.

  • Most IT Departments I investigate now acknowledge (and many actively support) consumerization of IT trends, most commonly helping employees link personal mobile devices to things like corporate email and calendaring accounts. IT is focused on making employees more productive, and this is an easy way to enable this.


Fact: Tablet penetration is increasing at companies, although it is still relatively rare for most employees to have a company-issued tablet at this point. It is more common for employees to bring in personal tablets and use them for work purposes (see “Trend #2” above 

Myth: Tablets are replacing computers at companies.

  • “Hard cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets simply isn’t happening much. It is extremely rare for employees at this point to get rid of their good ‘ol fashioned laptop altogether and go all-tablet, all-the-time. Any employee who needs to produce stuff (e.g., worker-bees) as opposed to consuming things (e.g., senior management reviewing the things that worker-bees produce) still needs and used laptops with larger screens and a quaint QWERTY keyboard.

 Fact: Tablets are extending the refresh cycles of laptops at companies.

  • “Soft cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets does indeed happen quite frequently once tablets are in the mix. Employees who use tablets for work tend to use their laptop less for certain tasks, and with less wear-and-tear IT departments are pushing out the refresh cycles of their laptop fleet.

 Myth: Tablets will negate the need for printing at the office.

  • Certain tasks and certain documents need to be printed at work. Whenever tablets are used to do these tasks…employees still want to print for them, and IT departments are generally happy to deploy mobile printing solutions if that’s what a critical mass of employees (or even a single, vocal senior executive) want. More computing devices in play generally leads to more printing, not less.  


Fact: Cloud computing is growing by leaps and bounds in corporate America. This trend is indeed real now, after several years where the industry marketing hype did not sync with the volume of deals actually being signed or the proclivity of IT departments to switch to cloud-based app delivery models.

Myth: IT departments are threatened by cloud computing and resisting this trend.

  • Initially, IT departments were very skeptical about the security of cloud apps, and distrustful of complex, pay-as-you-go pricing models that could be potential budget-busters. These days, IT departments are more often than not the champions of the shift to the cloud, and executive management sometime puts the kibosh on initiatives because they can involve extra near-term budget (and staffing resources) to make the initial switch.

Myth: Companies are going “all-cloud” and converting their old internal data centers into gyms or rec rooms. 

  • It is very rare for companies to have all their apps and storage on the cloud…I’m typically seeing a patchwork of internally-hosted apps, use of some public cloud services, other apps going onto private cloud infrastructures, and hybrid models. Certain apps are difficult to move to cloud provisioning for a variety of reasons (e.g., performance requirements, compliance with regulations, certain app vendors not yet supporting cloud delivery options or the ones they are offering aren’t fully baked yet, app customization needs). What IT departments really need now and for the foreseeable future is better management and security solutions that help them deal with this mixed environment, because it is likely here to stay for quite some time.

IT is changing dramatically and will no doubt look very different 2-5 years from now. The way these trends actually pan out always produce a few surprises, however. So stay tuned to this channel for future episodes of “IT Myth-busters.”

Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: technology research, B2B marketing, B2B research

Enterprise Social Networking Pulse: Where do IT Departments Stand?

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Oct 24, 2011

Despite some debate over the value of Enterprise Social Software tools, their use has taken off.  In 2010, Gartner, Inc. went as far as predicting the near term replacement of email by social networking services.  The lure of a tool that is low cost, simple to use, and that taps into the explosion of mobile devices promises to be collaboration on steroids.   

In our recent Tech Pulse survey of over 200 IT professionals, nearly one-third are currently using some type of enterprise social networking tools already, and an additional one-fifth plan to start soon.   Not surprisingly, usage is highest at larger companies, where the actual need is greatest.   

IT Departments, which are starting to catch up to this employee-led train and take ownership of it, typically  prefer social networking features integrated into core software applications already in use at the organization, as opposed to horizontal, purpose-built enterprise social networking platforms (three-quarters of IT departments prefer this). IT departments are dealing with application sprawl already.  Any time a trusted incumbent vendor gives them a way to meet their employee needs without adding an entirely different application (and vendor) to their environment that may not have well-developed APIs with their existing applications: they’ll take it.    

Which applications have the most demand for integration of enterprise social networking tools?

Some of the biggest users of these tools—not surprisingly—will be from Marketing and Sales.  This group of enterprise users will likely benefit from integration of social networking tools for CRM, SFA, and other marketing-related applications. Customer Service departments are also high on this list: large companies striving for greater customer-centricity have a clear need to get all parts of the company dealing with customer touch-points more effectively collaborating with one another.     

Internal IT management and IT help desk functions were also high on the list of departments that would benefit from enterprise social networking.  IT departments are not only catching up to this trend; they’re using it themselves as Gen Y and Millenials increasingly start to populate the profession.    

Top 10 Cloud   

Which enterprise social networking tools are IT Professionals using/considering?

IT departments generally prefer company names from large application providers they already use. The top mentions for social networking tools currently being used include Microsoft’s Office Talk, Cisco’s Pulse/Quad, and IBM’s Connections.   These same tools are top mentions for tools they are planning to use in the near future.     

Top 5 cloud

Things for Enterprise Social Networking Pure-Plays to Consider:

  1. Don’t Skimp on APIs: Having tight, well architected integration with major enterprise applications already in use is absolutely essential to getting companies to bring on a new vendor…especially the larger companies that are the earlier adopters of these systems. Jive is already attacking this barrier by increasing the degree of integration its tool has with applications like SharePoint.  If these firms invest in tighter integration with applications that matter to these IT Professionals in a social networking context,   (e.g., Customer Service, IT help desk, and Internal IT), they are likely to gain greater attention.

  2. IT Departments Need Some Convincing: Not having the benefit of incumbency and inertia, pure-play enterprise social networking companies must be amply prepared to counter objections they are going to face from IT departments that—while this might not be the place they initially target their sales efforts—they will ultimately need to gain the central IT stamp of approval in order to close the deal.

  Things for Other Enterprise Application Vendors to Consider:

  1. Consider developing integrated social networking capabilities into the next release of your software: especially if you sell to larger companies and/or to departments within companies that are most open to using enterprise social networking. IT Departments, for one, will be compelled to pay a little bit more for these extra integrated functionalities and be done with it rather than overlaying a completely separate third-party solution that may bring its own set of integration and IT management headaches.

  2. Play nice with other enterprise social networking vendors: especially if you do not have the resources or decide not to develop your own social networking capabilities—the ease with which your product integrates with some of the major enterprise social networking tools may soon become a check-list item in the evaluation process for your category. Helping develop easier integration with other social networking platforms is a defensive move that could prevent some future churn of existing accounts when it comes time to renew agreements.

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Download our TechPulse on Cloud Computing Trends here.



Posted by Chris Neal. Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: technology research, Consumer Pulse

Social Media & Community 2.0: Conference Wrap-Up

Posted by Chris Neal

Mon, Apr 11, 2011

After several years of slashed marketing budgets and increasing company forays into social media outreach, many executives are increasingly realizing three things:

  1. Successful social media efforts take a lot of time; and time is a very precious, finite resource.
  2. Measuring the return on social media efforts requires thoughtful planning and creative metrics.
  3. Social media strategies and tactics can vary dramatically based on which market segments you are targeting

I just attended and spoke at IIR’s Social Media & Community 2.0 conference here in Boston last week. Many excellent speakers from wildly different industries stressed that time and sustained commitment are crucial to success. Many conference attendees, by contrast, were hoping for a silver bullet that would bring them scalable social media success without stretching staff even thinner than they already are in this jobless recovery.

No such luck.  

And so the collective conversation turned to planning, focus and accountability.

(1) Planning: Nearly every battle-hardened social media practitioner on the pulpit stressed that you must understand your target audience(s) very well before diving into any social media efforts. Who are they? Which social media (if any) are they actually using, for what purpose(s), and in which contexts?  The answers to this can vary dramatically by market segment and product category, and are still changing pretty rapidly as social media usage evolves.

a.) For example, Amir Kishon of Wellness Layers mentionedhow many healthcare organizations first tried to establish online communities via Facebook, which is architected to celebrate and amplify your personal life. Those suffering from specific conditions, by contrast, need a protected, confidential community where their content is strictly private. 

b.) Other speakers, such as Megan Smith of Ovation TV, stressed the need to find out whether and where your target audience is already having relevant conversations online.  If they are  join them there rather than creating a brand new venue and hoping they will switch over. Swim with the tide.

(2) Focus: Proper planning will lead to focus, which is important because social media efforts are not free, even if they’re not gobbling up your marketing budget. The opportunity cost of different internal staff members’ time must be planned and accounted for.

a.) Decide which specific target audience you are going to focus on with your social media strategy.

b.) Plan out the relevant content strategy to engage them with (sustained content; not just one-off publicity stunts). Thomas Fishman of MTV, for instance, told the tale of a wildly successful contest they ran via Twitter for Justin Bieber to dedicate a song to one lucky Twitter follower. MTV’s Twitter followers sky-rocketed, but then quickly and dramatically those followers churned away after the contest ran its course.

c.) Decide on the tone of your company’s voice on social media, and stick to this tone religiously. As Holly Zoba of Signature Worldwide explained, this will help guide executives and staff through the dangerous social media waters when, for instance, hotel guests that you had to call the police on/have hauled off to jail then proceed to write scathing complaints about your company on TripAdvisor. 

d.) Decide on a select few social media channels to do well. This may be engaging in forums where customers are already talking about you. It might be going all-in with your Facebook presence. It might be LinkedIn. The number of social media platforms is expanding exponentially and can be overwhelming for companies attempting to do social media marketing well. If you know what your target audience is actually using (and how they’re using it); you can quickly prioritize so that you do a few things well rather than many thing poorly.describe the image

(3) Accountability: This is where connecting the dots can get tricky, especially since in many industries social media efforts often have more impact at driving preference, perception and advocacy than they do actual sales transactions. Marketing departments are being pushed to show clearer Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). When it comes to social media marketing (SMM) specifically, we’ve moved past the initial hype and “testing-the-waters”; CFOs are demanding a clear link between social media marketing investment and financial results.1 

a.) This is where some companies are getting creative. For instance, a hotel property set a goal of being the top-rated hotel in its category for a specific city on TripAdvisor.com. They knew from past transactional database analytics that this alone drove a certain percentage increase in profitability for any property.

As a card-carrying research/analysis/consulting nerd, I am thankful to be doing what I’m doing as all of this plays out. After the 2012 conference wraps up, I look forward to seeing how best practices within social media planning, focus and accountability have evolved, and hope to play even a small part in this evolution.  

1 And don’t worry: I’m not going to be that guy who tries to popularize “ROSMMI” as the latest buzz acronym. 

describe the imageIn May CMB’s Jeff McKenna will be speaking at  theTechnology Driven Market Research Event in Chicago. Jeff will be discussing the latest tools and technology (available at little or no cost) that add tremendous value by turning data into a visual story.

If you’re interested in attending any of these conferences let us know, we may be able to get you a discounted price.
Posted by Chris Neal. Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: marketing strategy, social media, conference recap

Innovation from Rationalization?

Posted by Chris Neal

Thu, Feb 03, 2011

CES logoAs the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up in Las Vegas last month we couldn’t help but marvel at the pace of convergence in the media, technology and communications sectors…. But we also found ourselves shaking our heads at the sometimes faulty logic behind some companies rush to chase shiny new categories.

Amid rapid change, the short-term pressure to introduce something – anything – in a hot emerging market sector often overwhelms the more considered voices of strategy; it feels as if survival is at stake. The short-term gains are obvious and pressing, and the long-term consequences around issues such as brand and portfolio logic can be tough to quantify out of the gate. Yet, years later, the result is often an inefficient, overlapping mess of brands and products.

In our work with companies across these sectors, we have found that new product development and innovation also emerge from a fresh (and hard) look at the product portfolio framework and product roadmap. When informed by up-to-date insights into market needs and competitive strategies, this broader view of market opportunities can highlight underserved segments as well as vulnerable existing cash cows. It can also counter-balance the appropriately-focused—but sometimes-myopic—perspectives of development teams working to create benefits for a point-solution or single product.

Done right, product portfolio management should align existing products to better mirror the needs of various customer segments, enabling greater efficiency and accelerated growth in target sectors. The result not only cuts products, but should lead to the identification of opportunities for new solutions. Such work can, and should, serve as a strong platform for growth into new categories and solutions.

We wonder how many of the whiz-bang products introduced at CES will drive meaningful growth for established companies, and how many will quickly fade into obscurity. We suspect that many companies chasing new categories might have fared better starting their search for new opportunities “at home.”  If they looked for improved efficiency and new growth by taking a hard look at their existing brand and product portfolios, and the markets served today, they would be better positioned for success. Sometimes the best opportunities are so close they are hard to see.

Posted by Chris Neal of Chadwick Martin Bailey and Mark Carr of South Street Strategy Group. Chris leads CMB’s Tech and Telecom Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing. Mark is the managing partner of South Street and when he's not consulting, he teaches in Babson’s MBA program, trains in Kenpo Karate, and spends every spare moment shoveling snow.

Product Portfolio optimizationWebinar: How Dell Used Choice Based Modeling to Optimize a Product Portfolio

CMB’s Chris Neal and Dell’s Howard Chen shared a case study about using market research to optimize a product portfolio. The session covered how the research was designed, executed, delivered in a desktop simulator, and used by the Dell team of product managers, marketers, and engineers. Watch here.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, product development

Making Good Product Roadmap Bets in a Rapidly Changing World

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jan 25, 2011

Product Development researchThe technology, telecom and new media industries continue to evolve at a breakneck pace, forcing companies of all stripes to place major bets on the future direction of the market to guide product roadmaps. Before taking the leap into a new category, however, executives should take a long hard look at opportunities and threats to current product, service or content portfolios.

In doing this kind of work across these fast-moving industries, we’ve found a few rules of thumb help ensure the resulting bets have a better chance of paying off:

  1. Cannibalize before your competition: Look at alternative solutions and substitutes to the markets served by your cash cows, particularly those supported by new technologies or technology applications.  If switching costs are low, existing customers are probably open to new solutions, and odds are that a competitor will devour your cash cows if you don’t first. Netflix is a prime example: reacting to competitive threats from evolving technologies, it has chosen to cannibalize its original DVD mail business with an increasing array of Internet streaming content and applications because it sees this as the future of its industry. Don’t be afraid to cannibalize your cash cows.

  2.  Know your brand elasticity: With the above in mind, when considering new product categories think carefully about your brand elasticity—your target customers may or may not give you “brand permission” to compete even with the best-designed product. If you don’t properly position your brand for a new category and/or new target segment you risk investing a lot of money in a “me-too” product that doesn’t catch on. Cisco has put an enormous amount of thought and effort to extend its brand from the enterprise to the living room and how its solutions will best fit into the evolving networked home landscape vis-à-vis better-known consumer brands. Apple is in the process of making the opposite journey into the enterprise from its growing mobile foothold and the consumerization of IT. With this in mind, we’ll be watching the tablet market with fascination in 2011 as we see the various product positioning tactics unfold. 

  3. Focus on segments you can dominate: Few companies can be all things to all people, and yet too many companies maintain bloated product portfolios that undermine profitability and confuse many customers. The tough decision to give up some revenue – and potentially some customers – feels to many executives like losing ground. To these executives, focus means giving something up, but as companies like Apple have proven, the size of the product portfolio doesn’t mean less value to shareholders; Apple has relative few products in the market, yet it is the largest tech company in the world now by market cap. Identify relevant and under-served niches, and focus on those areas where you can dominate and defend.

  4.  Place your products in context: What a customer wants while at home vs. out and about, for entertainment vs. productivity, for gaming vs. communication, and so on, can have a major impact on what types of products or services they seek out. Building this customer understanding into your product portfolio decisions helps the design teams focus on the right use-case scenario rather than getting caught up internally with speeds-and-feeds beauty contests or expecting customers to be able to articulate exactly what new features they want. If your target customers will only use laptops while at home, for instance, then perhaps they are willing to trade longer battery life for other features and capabilities. If another segment has no intention of using a particular portable device for gaming or video consumption, then they may be willing to trade off a high-end graphics processor for longer battery life.

Posted by Chris Neal of Chadwick Martin Bailey and Mark Carr of South Street Strategy Group. Chris leads CMB’s Tech and Telecom Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing. Mark is the managing partner of South Street and when he's not consulting, he teaches in Babson’s MBA program, trains in Kenpo Karate and...serves as a glorified chauffeur to his three kids


New Product Development Research
Learn More: How Dell Used Choice Based Modeling to Optimize a Product Portfolio

CMB’s Chris Neal and Dell’s Howard Chen shared a case study about using market research to optimize a product portfolio. The session covered how the research was designed, executed, delivered in a desktop simulator, and used by the Dell team of product managers, marketers, and engineers. Watch here.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, product development