Video Series: “Digital Stat Chat” Debut!

As a follow-up to Altimeter’s 2014 State of Digital Transformation report my colleague Brian Solis and I launched in July, I enlisted the help of Crazy Eyes Productions to create a new way of telling the data story. With that, the “Digital Stat Chat” video series was born. In the first episode, you’ll be introduced to half of the data from our report, with the second half coming next week. You can also access all graphics from the video on Altimeter Group’s Flickr page.

In the future, you can turn to Digital Stat Chat for my review and analysis of newly released data from Altimeter and other reputable sources. From social to mobile, disruptive tech to CX, you’ll find it all here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Altimeter Group + Facebook Report: Why Mobile is Essential for Brand Marketing

Digital Media, Mobile Time SpentCompanies that treat mobile as the “first screen” today will be better prepared for tomorrow’s consumers. Mobile is no longer a luxury; it’s table stakes for connecting with your digital customer. It enables right-time, real-time relevancy in brand messaging and promotion, opening up a world of possibilities to the savvy marketer who invests in understanding the mobile, and digital, customer journey.

Facebook commissioned Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb, analyst, and I to explore the growth and evolution of mobile branding and advertising as viable means to reach customers in new ways, on their terms. You can read the report below, and check out Facebook’s interview with Rebecca on its news blog.

[1] comScore Major Mobile Milestones in May: Apps Now Drive Half of All Time Spent on Digital June 25, 2014. United States.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

New Research: Socially Engaged Companies Get More Leads, Attract Better Talent

It’s no corporate HR secret: the greater investment made into employees, the greater the ultimate reward back to the company. This has never been truer than today, when always-on employees are increasingly connected to companies via an array of social channels and expect to be greeted by an engaged employer offering valuable content.

Altimeter Group partnered with LinkedIn to look deeper into the impact of corporate social media on a company’s employees, its executives, and its bottom line. Specifically, we examined the results that 25 of the top socially engaged companies reap when cultivating an engaged presence on LinkedIn via content marketing, employee engagement, talent and recruitment, and sales efforts.

We found that companies that take advantage of their ability to reach employees on a deeper level are coming out on top:

1. Employee engagement on LinkedIn is most successful when championed by leadership, starting with active executives. Executives from the most socially engaged companies on LinkedIn are:

Socially Engaged Executives

2. This leads to employees feeling empowered and inspired at their jobs. Employees at companies that are among the top socially engaged in LinkedIn are:

Employees at Socially Engaged Companies

3. And, perhaps most importantly, the top socially engaged companies on LinkedIn reap benefits to the bottom line as well. These companies are:

Results of Socially Engaged CompaniesCheck out the full infographic on LinkedIn’s blog, and learn more about our study and the impact of relationship economics from my colleague, Brian Solis.


Tagged , , , , ,

New Research: Understanding the Digital Customer Experience Drives Investment in Digital Transformation

[This post originally appeared on Altimeter Group’s blog.]

“Digital transformation” isn’t a trendy moniker to signify an increase in technology investment. It’s a renewed focus on the customer and the human side of business.

In Altimeter Group’s latest research, we uncovered that digital transformation is a re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models with a pointed purpose: to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle. Understanding the digital customer experience (DCX) is one of the primary catalysts for businesses placing substantial investment in digital transformation.

But, why does it matter? What makes digital transformation so important NOW? Social, mobile, real-time, and other disruptive technologies are aligning like never before to necessitate big changes within organizations, forcing them to adapt in order to maintain relevancy. Digital transformation is significant because it is finally driving real change within businesses; they’re developing new models, team structures, and customer-centered philosophies along the way.

For the better part of the last year, my colleague Brian Solis and I researched the current state of digital transformation efforts among best-in-class organizations. We spoke with 20 ecosystem contributors to understand what digital transformation is, what its benefits are, what catalysts drive it, and what challenges lie ahead. We looked for insights into how companies are transforming from the inside out in order to formulate best practices amidst a time of crucial change. We found:

Social Business Alone Isn’t Enough

Social business helps executives flatten traditional hierarchies by empowering employees to connect, communicate, and collaborate across traditional boundaries. But, without a vision for how to compete in connected markets and how to create value for a digital customer, social alone doesn’t cut it. When leadership recognizes that existing business models, systems and processes are ill-equipped to respond without big changes, digital transformation is inevitable.

Brands are Out of Touch with Digital Customer Behaviors and Expectations

Altimeter Group found that brands are out of touch with their digital customers. Even though companies are boosting technology budgets, they’re doing so based on assumptions and not from data or research into the new customer journey. More so, brands don’t yet have the infrastructure to support next-generation marketing efforts. But, there is hope! We also learned that brands are creating a sense of urgency by using insights stemming from the new DCX as the catalyst for internal digital transformation.

Digital Transformation Puts People at the Center

Every business says they’re customer-centric, but Altimeter learned that leading companies put people at the center of change. They start with studying the data (digital footprints and preferences) plus behavior to learn where to prioritize technology, resources, and investments. The case for urgency is made in updating an antiquated customer journey to a more accurate, adaptive, optimized DCX.

Digital Transformation Success Lies in the Reaction of Three Key Elements

During our research, we uncovered three core elements that contribute to successful beginnings and growth of digital transformation efforts. By making significant investments in technology and new business models, companies like Starbucks, Nestle, Intuit, and Sephora are getting in front of digital transformation—rather than stuck reacting to it.

The Three Elements of Digital Transformation

  • Element #1: Vision and Leadership. Digital transformation is an emergent movement and not yet recognized as a formal priority or effort by most businesses. This requires those leading or attempting to get a digital transformation program in motion to make the business case. But, the business case needs more than evidence or anecdotes; it needs a story and a vision for what it looks like and what it delivers.
  • Element #2: Digital Customer Experience. Digital customer experience begins with research, not guesswork, to study personas, behaviors, and expectations throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle. Once armed with information, digital transformation takes shape by specifically aligning people, processes, and technologies against goals and milestones to map a new and effective journey for digital customers.
  • Element #3: The Digital Transformation Team. In many cases, we learned that organizations form special teams to bring people together to start talking and put change into motion. These teams go by many names: digital circles, Centers of Excellence (CoE), rapid innovation teams, digital acceleration teams, and more.

The path toward digital transformation is not prescribed. Every business subscribes to this movement as one that is long-term, without an end in sight. No companies we interviewed claimed to have “figured this out,” nor does any organization believe it has successfully undergone digital transformation. However, one thing is clear: a sense of urgency for change must come from within. A change agent needs to make the case to show that digital customers are already moving on due to a lack of focus on DCX. Only then can organizations begin the process of re-aligning and re-inventing current processes, infrastructures, and teams in order to bring about a more connected customer experience.

You can download the full report here, and share its graphics from our Flickr page

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Playing Games, Chatting Up Friends Lead Second-Screen Behaviors

According to an Altimeter Group survey conducted in Q2 2013, 40% of digital strategists are already investing in or planning to invest in social TV within the next 12 months. An additional 23% are actively following the space, but have no immediate plans for investment. It’s safe to say that social TV will only grow in the year ahead.

Social TV strategies that receive investment must complement second-screen habits of viewers. I turned to an Altimeter data provider, Global Web Index, to find out more about what exactly viewers are doing on their mobile devices while tuning into their favorite programs. This data (Q4 2013) should serve as a guide for those budgeting for social TV in 2014, supplemented your own data specific to your customer personas and related behaviors.

As referenced in Figure 1 below, “playing games” (M=35%; F=37%) and “chatting with friends” (M=31%; F=35%)  lead second-screen behaviors for both genders. Males are slightly more likely to divert attention toward “reading news” (32%), and women are more likely to spend time “searching for products to buy” (34%).

Perhaps most interesting, however, is what respondents are not  doing on their devices while watching TV.  “Interacting with the online content of the TV show” and similar social TV-specific behaviors are at the bottom of the barrel. This supports the notion that, although viewers are consuming a variety of content types while simultaneously tuned in to TV, they’ll still follow normal content consumption habits (that likely do not include your latest and greatest social TV campaign app, game, or content series).

Fig. 1. Popularity of Second-Screen Behaviors, by Gender

Second-screen behaviors, by gender

Figure 2 examines second-screen behaviors by age range. For the youngest demographics, 16- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 34-year-olds, “chatting with friends” is the most popular behavior (50% and 43%, respectively), with “playing games” coming in at a close second for both age groups (44% and 42%, respectively). Interestingly enough, “playing games” is the most popular second-screen behavior within older demographics as well. It’s also important to note that, similar to looking at the data by gender breakdown, TV-specific content simply does not attract the same size audience as more common second-screen behaviors.

Fig. 2. Popularity of Second-Screen Behaviors, by Age

Second-Screen Behaviors, by Age
The bottom line? When planning investments for social TV-related efforts in 2014, keep your customer’s media consumption habits in mind. If data indicates that viewers stick to old habits when tapping around their devices during TV programming, there’s no need to create an entirely new experience, community, or application aimed at drawing them to your content. Instead, go to where they already are – their chat platforms, mobile and online games, news sites, and online stores. By focusing media, advertising, and content dollars there, you’ll see much greater reward for far less investment.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The battle for “first screen”: TV struggles to maintain priority

In the wake of Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s no secret that social TV has the potential to bring the “watercooler conversation” into the living room. Despite the fact that Super Bowl ratings fell to a four-year low, Facebook reported that 50 million unique global users communicated about the big game via Facebook or its apps during the broadcast. According to MarketingLand, This amounted to 185 million “interactions,” roughly 3.7 interactions per person on average. Along the same vein, advertisers hoped that the actions taken on our mobile devices kept us focused on the commercials in tandem, popularly by suggesting hashtags during ad breaks. 13.7 million people tweeted about the Super Bowl, with hashtags mentioned in a record-breaking 57% of ads.

ESPN Sync brings dedicated real-time sports coverage to the second screen (via Engadget).

ESPN Sync brings dedicated real-time sports coverage to the second screen (via Engadget).

Such social TV tactics seem to be paying off during live broadcasts, but what about the battle for consumer attention during cable premieres or syndicated programming? And, what about on-demand difficulties (as referenced in my last post)?

Many brands attempt to keep consumer attention on the TV during programming itself by airing live tweets or Facebook posts at the bottom of the screen (if you’ve ever watched Bravo reality TV, you understand. It’s a part of my past I’m not proud of either). Other popular tactics include using mobile apps that feature exclusive content or gaming components related to programming, the use of content synchronization through TVTag (formerly GetGlue), and live Q&A with the show’s creators, producers, or character actors. HBO has seen success using these, and additional tactics, to engage viewers pre-, during, and post-airing of popular series like True Blood and Game of Thrones – a formidable feat to tackle behind a premium paywall and popular on-demand viewing via HBOGo.

It’s starting to work for brands and networks alike: according to BI Intelligence, 53% of consumers with tablets or smartphones have engaged in mobile-based activity related to what they’re watching on TV. But, are these tactics strong enough to hold attention and ultimately, to drive action? That’s the question brands must consider when planning and budgeting for the future of social TV.

Strategizing for the inevitable attention shift: Mobile devices will overtake TVs as the primary focal point

As consumers collect devices, attention is divided more than ever. It’s short-sighted to believe that the television will always remain the first screen for consumers. As of November 2013, Mediabistro reported that 39% of viewers already use their smartphone or tablet while watching TV once per day (check out more stats in their nifty infographic). Brands must plan on the fact that our televisions are becoming the true second, or even third, screen, while our smartphones and tablets enjoy priority.

Know your consumers (and viewers).

Although this may sound biased with my career field in mind, you can never know enough about your customers. Research should be the foundation for every media, advertising, and marketing decision – regardless of platform or medium. Although the data supporting social TV’s growth is promising, it’s only relevant if your customer base is apt to concentrate its energy on mobile platforms in conjunction with (or in replacement of) more traditional television entertainment. Remember: it’s a battle for attention, so engagement must guide your decisions. Measure where (platform or medium) and when (both time of day and also in conjunction with other activities) your customers are most focused on your content, as well as general mobile and tablet behaviors. An attention shift away from television is happening, it’s just a matter of when it’s most cost-effective to shift your media mix.

Make the case for budget re-allocation.

Once the research is sound, it’s important to use data to your advantage when making the case to leadership for a budget shift. Social TV is still very new, and its merits are likely not known among key decision-makers when it comes to budgeting for media (especially against traditional cohorts). Use a combination of general industry and social TV data with your customer research. If you’re part of a more traditional company culture that hasn’t yet recognized the potential of social, mobile, and new digital media in general, it may be more fruitful to state your case by suggesting including social TV as part of your brand’s digital or social media budget at first. Once initial results are recognized, larger budget allocation from television funds will be an easier sell.

Plan TV creative with attention division in mind.

When planning the strategy and implementation of television creative, it’s important to consider how your viewers are consuming its content in relation to other screens. The very concept of social TV indicates a close relationship between television and social or digital channels. Add in the fact that the TV may not be the primary screen of focus, and campaign creative is dramatically affected. Consider how the use of visuals and graphics in creative weighs against other sensory measures – such as sound and touch. Will it be more effective to treat a television commercial as an engaging radio spot, when eyes are so easily averted to alternate, tactile screens? Should you invest more in maintaining and biding community conversation around your brand or program, vs. budgeting big for TV viewership? This is the very idea behind “design thinking” – solving problems based on customers’ needs rather than what you’re comfortable with based on past experiences.  

Rewind a few years, and anyone in or adjacent to the social space can remember the advice, “the conversation is already happening online, whether you’re there or not. Either you plan for social media now, or your competitors will beat you to it.” Social TV may be in its relative infancy now, but its potential is worth planning for and investing in. Customer attention is already divided, and the division will only continue to grow as we become more comfortable with taking in content via our mobile devices. I predict that next year’s Super Bowl spending will be a more complicated feat than pouring billions into television. Solving for consumer engagement – on their terms – will be more important than ever to driving engagement into the end zone.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Social TV: Solving for Synchronicity in an On-Demand Future

This post originally appeared on Altimeter Group’s blog.

Real-time content synchronization between offline and online media has become the darling of social TV, frequently serving as its very definition for companies looking to marry traditional and digital marketing experiences. Take Target, for example. Prior to the 2013 release of Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” Target promoted the album synchronously on social, mobile, and TV. Its Facebook video post offered an exclusive pre-order of the album, and appeared simultaneously in fans’ news feeds while the commercial was broadcast.



As my colleague Rebecca Lieb notes, TV pairs well with Twitter synching, too. In
one indicative case study, GMA News used Twitter to increase viewer engagement with the Philippines’ 2013 election. By broadcasting tweets about the election on-screen during their programming, GMA News sparked more than 800,000 posts about the candidates and, as a result, topped all competitor TV ratings during the election. And, with Comcast and Twitter’s recent expansion of the
See It platform, brands can go one step further by effectively turning Twitter into a TV remote, allowing users to click through directly from tweet to broadcast on their mobile phones, tablets, and smart TVs.

On-Demand programming pressures brands to rethink social TV strategies

Social and broadcast synchronization offer tremendous opportunity for brands to reach engaged audiences on multiple screens. But what happens when brands can’t create shared experiences as easily?

Those focused on social synchronization as it stands are playing a short game that doesn’t account for TV’s future. According to BTIG media analyst Richard Greenfield, as of October 2013, each Netflix subscriber watches an average of 93 minutes per day, making it “larger than any single cable network.” Combined with releasing entire seasons of original programming at once (think House of Cards and Orange is the New Black), this puts a wrench in viewers’ ability to share experiences on social networks in real time, as well as advertisers’ ability to deepen cross-channel marketing messaging and avoid media fragmentation. Add a premium paywall, and the social experience becomes further disjointed.

This is where technology applications have an opportunity to shine. TV “check-in” apps like
i.TV’s GetGlue allow for viewers to form micro-communities once they tune in to programming. However, such apps have to prove that they scale before they can provide value to brands. On stage at 2013’s Dreamforce conference, Twitter’s Marc Heedt, brand strategist and social TV specialist, shared that the utility of such apps isn’t high enough yet. “We want to create the whole package for advertisers, including all apps, Nielsen data, a Twitter ad buy, etc. On their own, these apps don’t scale in the same way [social networks do].” Also on the panel was Facebook’s Daniel Slotwiner, head of its Measurement Solutions Group. Slotwiner added, “These apps can’t be disregarded. However, their gamification component isn’t enough of an offering to make them catch on at scale and prove useful in synching experiences.”

Facebook "is watching" status functionalityBut, what about the similar TV check-in (“is watching”) functionality available to Facebook users? This offers potential for on-demand synching, but in a community setting where viewers are already comfortable sharing. In 2014, I believe we’ll see the big social players put more stake in social TV, solving the problem of synchronization on their home turf rather than simply enabling apps to do so on their APIs. Until then, brands looking to target on-demand viewers should focus efforts on smaller audiences using dedicated check-in apps.

It’s also worth considering that time-shifted programming doesn’t always equal paltry social results. Many season and series finales (think AMC’s Breaking Bad) are able to attract enough viewers to create social trending on Twitter and Facebook even in the face of time-shifted premieres across time zones. “Real-time” equates more to “same night” in these cases, leaving breathing room for brands pushing for content synchronization amongst screens.

As social TV matures, its future looks increasingly promising. When considering the possibilities that lie ahead, Twitter’s Heedt extrapolated, “Consumers will be so integrated into programs that they decide what they want to watch and vote upcoming content up or down. Imagine changing the ending of a telecast based on consumer voting.”

An interesting thought, but a somewhat displaced desired outcome. This has been the rallying cry of “interactive TV” for the past decade, but it has never come to fruition. It’s doubtful the advent of social TV will be the catalyst for a “choose your own adventure” style of programming. I’m not comfortable leaving the series finale of Mad Men in the hands of the viewers. Don Draper can’t be controlled like an American Idol pop star.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Holistic Gamification: Applying Social Dynamics to Solve Problems Across the Enterprise

This post originally appeared on Altimeter Group’s blog.

The concept of using game mechanics to achieve desired outcomes may not be new, but to many brands, the use of gamification across the enterprise to drive business value is gaining speed. In our latest research, Altimeter has found that gamification is quickly evolving to become an important component in many organizations’ internal and external strategic plans for growth. Fifty-five percent of digital strategists surveyed are already investing in gamification, or are planning to invest in the next 12 months(1). In this post, we present a myriad of ways that game mechanics can solve problems (and, increase the bottom line) across the enterprise.

Defining Gamification

First, let’s discuss what gamification means. At Altimeter, we classify a program as gamification if it contains:

  1. Comparison and/or competition mechanics
  2. Reward and/or incentive opportunities
  3. Measurable elements to benchmark for success against business goals

With these ingredients in mind, Altimeter Group began its research on various use cases for gamification across the enterprise. We specifically vetted and reviewed instances where gamification was used to create business value, both externally and internally, often as part of a larger marketing, digital, or social media program. According to M2Research, as of 2012, nearly half (47%) of brands implement gamification programs focused on user engagement, while another 22% focus on brand loyalty and 15% on brand awareness. Our findings span beyond these well-known use cases for gamification, as shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 below.

Fig. 1. How EXTERNAL Gamification is used to Create Value

Gamification Use Case Value to the Brand Example(s)
Crowdsource Innovation Gamification is used to solve problems internally, gaining perspective from consumers and other external communities. Greater efficiency often leads to lower innovation and problem-solving costs. DARPA
Univ. of Washington
Encourage Engagement and Behaviors Increased customer participation with brands throughout the purchase cycle (including extension into adjacent products and services) can lead to increased intent and sales. Gamification is also used to increase event participation, guiding attendees to desired conversions. Box
Extraco Bank
Supplement Loyalty/Advocacy Programs Combined with loyalty programs, gamification can provide recognition, rewards, increase repeat behavior, and lengthen customer engagement and retention. Caesers Casino
Expedite Customer Service Gamification programs can help employees meet customer service quotas, close incidents faster, encourage teamwork, and increase positive feedback scores received from customers. When combined with CRM data, further incentives can be created. EngineYard
Engage Brand Influencers and Advocates Encourage advocate/influencers (and, passionate customers) to share branded content (online and offline), leading to increased page views, social and content interactions, and other social or onsite behaviors. Many gamification tactics also involve leaderboards that allow brands to identify their more influential customers within communities. This may lead to new customer acquisition via referrals. Bravo Network
USA’s Psych
Increase Physical Traffic via Mobile Combining gamification with mobile apps can increase foot traffic to physical store locations or certain departments within stores. It’s great for new location openings, depleting overstock inventory, and guiding customers through the purchase cycle. Best Buy + Shopkick
Gather Actionable Data Gather opt-in customer data when they engage with gamification programs via a gamification platform like Bunchball or Badgeville. Doing so allows brands to paint a more detailed insights picture of their customers’ behaviors than would be possible without gamification. Caesers Casino
GMI + Engage Research

Created with the HTML Table Generator

Fig. 2. How INTERNAL Gamification is Used to Create Value

Gamification Use Case Value to the Brand Examples(s)
Streamline Processes and Drive Innovation Make processes more efficient, solve problems internally, and get perspective from different groups within the organization. Efficiency is often increased when adding gamification to internal innovation processes. IBM Innov8
Recruit and Hire New Employees Using online and mobile games developed in line with brand attitudes, values, and goals, companies can recruit quality candidates based on game involvement, excellence, skill, and achievement. Quixey
US Army
Educate and Train Employees Familiarize employees with new processes or products using gamification for education and training. Game mechanics engage employees in learning and encourage exemplary training performance. It can also be used for change management in light of new processes or tech. Ford
Provide Continuous Feedback and Employee Development Gamification – especially badging – can be used encourage employees to provide informal and frequent feedback to each other, via enterprise social network features like “Praise” and “Thanks”. It becomes a way to give continual feedback between reviews and adds data merit to promotions.
Increase Employee Communication and Collaboration Using gamification in combination with an enterprise social network (ESN) can increase internal information sharing, as well as employee communication within and across departments. This can help drive cross-team collaboration. Blue Wolf
Motivate Employees Gamification can be used as a way to motivate employees to achieve specific goals. It can also inspire friendly (collaborative) competition and be a forum for public recognition. It’s useful in encouraging employees to learn new skills and manage their careers. Accenture

Created with the HTML Table Generator

Now, let’s look at two detailed case studies of gamification in action.

SAP Evolves Community Network Game Mechanics to Boost Member Activity, Engagement, and Value

Since the launch of its external community in 2003, enterprise software company SAP has been utilizing game mechanics to increase engagement and drive positive behaviors in its online community of customers, partners, independent consultants and employees—the SAP Community Network (SCN). SAP has continuously reviewed and revamped its gamification efforts over the past 10 years in order to provide the most valuable reward and recognition to its top contributors. This has driven increases in time on site, repeat visits, and customer advocacy.

Today, SAP works with Jive and Bunchball, using points, badges, and leveling up mechanisms to encourage participation and identify top contributors and topic-area influencers. Its hundreds of thousands of contributors reach new levels and statuses within the community when they share knowledge and experience in discussion forums, documents, and via blog posts. SAP develops closer relationships with the most active experts, who are identified within a selection of SCN’s 400 topic categories, often guiding them to become mentors for other members and moderators, partnering on blog content, or used as advisors on SAP products and systems.

SCN “missions,” are goal-oriented tasks that are designed to encourage positive behaviors in the community as well as increase participation and thoughtful responses. They are catered specifically to the needs, interests, and motivations of those who are well established in the community as thought leaders and experts. SAP measures the success of its community by month/month changes in contributions, quality of contributions, visits, time spent on site, and community feedback to contributions. They are also beginning to tie these metrics back to sales of SAP products. Since the launch of its improved game mechanics in 2013, the company has seen astronomical results: Activity generating point assignment increased by 188% and SAP observed a 250% increase in engagement around content (comments, likes, ratings).(2)

Marriott Involves Cross-Departmental Employees, Executives in Creation of Engaging Social Games

Marriott’s first gamification effort, My Marriott Hotel was created with two purposes in mind: 1) to attract potential employees to Marriott, and 2) to attract new consumers to its hotels. Born on Facebook’s API, the game quickly spread to 130 countries—a great success, as Marriott properties span 75 countries worldwide. My Marriott Hotel allows players to assume various hotel roles, develop a basic understanding of what the work entails, and lessen the barriers to apply for a job. The simplicity of My Marriott Hotel led to more than 25,000 players joining in the first week.

What’s more impressive though is how My Marriott Hotel (and, Marriott’s most recent creation – Xplor) came to be. Marriott’s Global HR Officer David Rodriguez and the company’s CMO sponsored a group of associates who were champions for My Marriott Hotel in its infancy, helping them consistently refine the idea until it was ready for presentation to Marriott’s CEO. Much like My Marriott Hotel, Xplor—a game focused on the hospitality industry and the thrill of sightseeing—was also a grassroots project, brought to life by employees from different levels and departments throughout the company.

Today, multiple departments at Marriott are responsible for gamification, with more governance brought to efforts over the years as its external gaming applications have increased in popularity. HR, Communications, and Social Media all had a hand in Xplor’s project launch, working together to create more engaging games than one department could do on their own. Future plans include leveraging gamification to drive customer engagement, as well as for training and employee performance management purposes internally. These plans include using gamification to accelerate learning as well as encourage team-based learning.(3)

Recommendations for Enterprise Use of Gamification

Altimeter found many similarities among companies that employ successful gamification programs. Regardless of whether you are in the planning phase or seeking to evolve your current gamification program, consider the following recommendations:

Identify: Discover what incentives work (and, what doesn’t) with your customers.
Customer needs, pain points, and preferences should drive objectives and gameplay of any gamification program. Start with looking into where your target audience spends time online to discover what types of game mechanics are best at driving action and engagement. For example, say your target is 18- to 34-year-old males who are PC gamers. You may start by looking into popular communities where this demographic thrives, such as Reddit, Imgur, and StumbleUpon. Look at what type of game mechanics are used on those platforms, what seems to drive voting and commenting, and who is most influential. Use this information to guide your brand’s gamification development in a way that speaks to this audience’s engagement preferences. From there, listen to what customers are saying to discover whom your brand advocates are. Include them in pilot efforts to better understand how a gamification program may add value to their brand experience.

Rebrand: “Gamification” by any other name sounds … well, sweeter.
The term “gamification” can strike a sour chord amongst peers who question its merits in delivering business value beyond frivolous fun. Cut skepticism off at the pass by rebranding the term internally. Address these sensitivities by using phrases like “game mechanics” and “social dynamics” when sharing use cases surrounding gamification’s business value. If peers take gamification more seriously, you’ll be more likely to secure cross-departmental and executive support.

Research: Know what questions to ask when vetting out vendor solutions.
One of the key pieces of SAP’s gamification development was the company’s focus on finding the perfect vendor to fit its unique needs of transitioning members from a legacy system while still maintaining points and status levels. Below are some of the issues that your technology partner should be able to help you address as you develop your program.

  1. How do you envision engaging your target audience in terms of game play?
  2. Will it involve social, mobile, digital, or other internal programs?
  3. Should you offer badges, level-ups, or other incentives?
  4. If points are involved, how will you monitor and manage the “point economy” to ensure correct points are awarded for actions that contribute to program goals?
  5. How will you plan for and handle cheating?
  6. How will you connect member data to existing CRM or enterprise social network (ESN) data?
  7. How many people will you have managing or moderating efforts, and how will you approach workflow?
  8. How will we be able to measure the impact of the gamification program against our business goals?

Whether looking to solve problems internally or externally, gamification offers many real solutions when implemented as part of an integrated Social Business or Mobile Strategy. We’d like to hear about your experiences with gamification – and especially if you’ve been able to connect it to business impact.


(1) Altimeter Group Survey of Digital Strategists, Q2-3 2013 (n=103).
(2) Interview with Laure Cetin, Community Reputation Manager and Enterprise Gamification Consultant for SAP.
(3) Interview with David Rodriguez, Global HR Officer for Marriott.

Tagged , , , ,

SXSWi 2013: Data, Data Everywhere

At this year’s SXSWi, I heard a familiar tune: everything still leads back to the data. It’s the underlying and often puzzling theme serving as the connective tissue for all other emerging trends I noted at the festival. Whether perusing the hectic vendor floor, attending insightful sessions, or conversing with attendees over lunch, it was impossible to ignore the data elephant (and, its challenges) in the room.

My LinkedIn social graph visualization. Data upon data!

Data upon data, as visualized in a snapshot of my LinkedIn social graph.

The question keeping everyone up at night is, “How do we make sense of all this data?”
Tracking customers via their data along the Dynamic Customer Journey (DCJ) is morphing into a top priority for organizations as traditional and digital media more seamlessly converge into delivering one holistic experience for the customer. Add to that the rising popularity of the “quantified self,” and companies are now struggling to not only connect the dots between their own data sources but also the data sets of their customers. With consumers beginning to take control of their own data tracking and analysis, the complexity of taking calculated actions only increases for businesses attempting to make sense (or, “cents,” perhaps) of the myriad of data points at their fingertips.

Collaborative consumption is the new buzzword, with its applications attempting to transition from a “nice to have” to proving utility.
From Zaarly to Lyft, Task Rabbit to Airbnb, collaborative consumption has taken hold in the online and mobile application space. Although the majority of these companies are technically in their infancy, their apps are beginning to mature as they develop stronger location and micro-location targeting and service delivery capabilities. A focus on adapting to better deliver real-time information and individualized customization to users is also coming to light as consumers demand instant gratification, fine-tuned relevance, and the death of mass “customization.”

New business opportunities are being discovered as companies further analyze their customers’ dynamic, flexible social graphs.
With companies becoming more savvy in determining the impact of their customers’ online social connections, new business opportunities are emerging that focus on disruption via micro-community development, influencer and advocacy programs, and vertical-specific targeting (healthcare, education, and entertainment were definite stand-outs at SXSWi). As such, analytics is still a big part of the equation, gaining importance as businesses strive to create new opportunities and, still, prove social ROI—whether analyzing an individual’s data, group data sets, or connections between complex big-data graphs.

Although the idea of data management, analysis, and related action may not have a shiny new appeal, it certainly can’t be ignored. The bottom line is that we must solve these core data equations before moving on to the next red-hot, sexy application that benefits from its understanding. Otherwise, the energy of disruption will short-after be diluted by a lack of strategic business value.

For others who attended SXSWi, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you also see data as such a pervasive theme woven into the core of your sessions and conversations?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Disrupting the Mobile Location Landscape: 
Exploring Key Themes from Mobile Loco 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 1.16.24 PMLast week, I attended the Mobile Loco conference in San Francisco. Mobile location technologies have always been an interest area for me, so I was excited to see what disruptive topics would be up for discussion during the annual event.

This post will explore mobile location technologies and applications from the perspective of brands that are looking to grow in this hyper-targeting space. There weren’t many brands on panels at Mobile Loco, but the opportunities, barriers, and possibility for industry disruption can be applied to brands just as easily as vendors, startups, or investors.

Opportunities: How can brands evolve their current mobile presence to deliver greater value to their customers and their bottom line?

Yelp Mobile Advertising

Yelp’s inline mobile advertising delivers value to its app users by helping them find relevant places nearby.

Many opportunities were touched on in the day’s sessions. They included, in no particular order:

  • Mobile advertising. For companies like Yelp, advertising within its mobile application that is based on user history and current location has become commonplace, nearly accepted as normal by its users. However, this isn’t the case for all mobile applications. The transition to mobile advertising may not be as smooth for brands whose apps do not lay ground for such a natural tie-in.
  • Personalization and customization. Admittedly, this opportunity is probably of the lowest hanging fruit to brands, but it’s one that many still have yet to harvest. Mobile offers a world of granular location data that brands can use to create engaging, valuable experiences. Gamification is often connected as well, also used as a way to gather more data about customers while simultaneously boosting brand engagement and sales.
  • Immediate satisfaction. With the advent of companies like Uber, getting what you want, exactly where you are, at the press of a button will become the norm. Look for instant gratification to be a theme in the New Year. 
Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital put it best: “The mobile phone is a remote control for your life. The notion of pressing buttons to get what you want immediately is compelling.”
  • Integration with POS. Until mobile location can prove its weight in cold hard cash, it will remain a novelty. Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason has helped track the company’s mobile ROI (including redemption, overspend, and customer loyalty) by integrating with merchants’ payment systems.
  • Vertical expansion. Until now, mobile location apps have been broader in terms of focus. Anyone can check into anywhere, for example. 2013 will bring a greater focus into vertical opportunities. The number one prediction? Retail.

Barriers: What obstacles and challenges are brands currently facing in evolving their mobile presence to take advantage of location-based technologies?

Again, in no particular order, common challenges arose amongst speakers:

  • Mobile location is only part of the equation. As Vishy Gopalakrishnan, VP, Mobility, SAP, put it: “Mobile location is necessary but not sufficient. Location is just one factor—it’s a much bigger equation.” If brands focus solely on location-based campaigns and solutions to solve their mobile problems, success will be futile.
  • Users don’t see additional value in sharing more data. Brands must consider the value proposition for their customers when asking them to share location data with their company. It comes down to relevancy: what makes the experience better? Can customers save more money or time? Will their data be used in the right way? Transparency in data usage yields consumer trust.
  • Data silos act as barriers to innovation. When individual brands create silos of data it’s usually because they want to control each touch point. With multiple data silos within the same brand, how can anyone make sense of it? At the end of the day, it’s customers who suffer from fragmented experiences.
  • Mobile advertising is intrusive. Although conversion is getting better, consumers still view mobile advertising as intrusive—especially if based on location data. Brands must hurdle this barrier by ensuring their advertising is relevant and delivered in a non-intrusive way that makes sense with the application’s key features. In the words of Mike Ghaffary, VP, Business Development for Yelp: “If you have an app that has nothing to do with location, it’s extremely difficult to successfully advertise based on location. You can’t even pay in the space.”
  • Location quality is still lacking. Simply put, location services aren’t accurate 100 percent of the time. When location data isn’t correct, it becomes more difficult for brands to deliver relevant features, offers, and recommendations (especially when looking at mapping interior spaces).

Disruption: How can brands push disruption of the mobile location space, ultimately delighting and surprising their customers?

Although it’s difficult to predict the next big mobile location disruption, a few keynote speakers and panelists shared their thoughts:

Increased automation.

“Push automation where it hasn’t been before. What are the areas of technology that haven’t yet been deployed? Think how GrubHub transformed delivery, or how Uber expanded its market. Automation and ease of use leads to an expansion of use cases.” –Bill Gurley, Benchmark Capital

Indoor mapping.

“It’s all about delivering wonderful, context-aware experiences to mobile users. Retail is an important vertical [for interior mapping], but it’s not the only one. We’re looking at museums, education, conferences … we want to leverage every possible asset on mobile to make indoor location work.” –Cormac Conroy, VP Engineering & Product Management. Location Products & Technology for Qualcomm

Enterprise adoption.

“The mobile world has opened up access to the enterprise and expanded the market of what you can go after. A lot of companies have applications with the potential to change and disrupt—from new models for mobile-centric salespeople, to changing how payments work in retail.” –Chris Yeh, VP of Platform at Box

Relevant advertising.

“We’re just at the tip of the relevance piece at Yelp. We’re delighting users with their location data and mobile advertisements, helping them find things thanks to ads.” –Mike Ghaffary, VP, Business Development for Yelp

Look for these opportunities, barriers, and disruptive themes to work their way into future Altimeter research. And, for others who attended Mobile Loco – anything key I’ve missed from the day?

Tagged , , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.