This is not news to us in the digital trenches. What caught my eye was predicting the rise of Customer Experience Marketing agencies that will go along with all these new channels. This is a relatively new handle for agencies, but Forrester predicts many stripes of agency will re-christen themselves as CEM agencies this year.
At IQ, we call ourselves interaction designers, which I think means the same thing. And while that doesn't cover everything we do, it is the heart of the matter.
What all these new channels amount to is lots more consumer interaction points.
The problem is that each one has its own unique dynamics and users expect brands to be on top of them all. Consumers don't want re-hashed user experiences ported over from other environments. That might have worked for mobile sites for a while, but now any less-than-excellent user experience just makes a brand look out of touch.
Demanding consumers expect mobile sites and apps that are designed for the specific device they are viewing it on -- and just getting the technology right is not enough. The challenge for each new platform is to marry an ethnographic understanding of how the device is being used with insight into how the brand can be useful and valuable within that context.
That's tricky at the best of times, but when you have to figure it out in so many different environments, it is a major commitment. There isn't any way around it -- and that's the hill that brands and their agencies have to climb this year, assuming Forrester's predictions come true.
At IQ, we have already been trekking up the hill for some time with the Apple, Android and Microsoft platforms. Each one has different technology; but equally important, they also have different consumer behaviors that drive interaction design.
Digital agencies are probably better equipped for these challenges - provided they have developed a strategic approach based on ethnographic insights and team with integrated design, technology and strategy skills. These teams are hard to build and hone, but brands are going to rely on them if they want to cover all the bases well.
We are already seeing consumer expectations rising as they look for brands to be available on every device with state-of-the-art experiences that are effortless, delightful and useful. This is the new battlefield and being first has a real advantage.
If you're the first app that does something well, consumers are less prone to switch to anything less than a giant step forward. Incrementally better apps will probably not unseat you -- as long as you take advantage of your lead and continue to innovate.
It's a real commitment that brands have to make to being in the device software business, and it's a lot more complex than advertising. It requires all the skills of marketing and the creativity of advertising, plus the disciplines of software design. Well, nobody said it was going to get any easier.