Four Disruption Themes for Business

By Altimeter Group’s Research Team

  • Analysts: Susan Etlinger, Charlene Li, Rebecca Lieb, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Silva, Brian Solis
  • Consulting: Ed Terpening, Alan Webber
  • Researchers: Jon Cifuentes, Jessica Groopman, Andrew Jones, Jaimy Szymanski, Christine Tran

Over 30 Technologies Have Emerged, at a Faster Pace than Companies Can Digest.

If you think social was disruptive, it was really just the beginning. Altimeter’s research team recently convened for our annual research offsite and found over 30 disruptions and 15 trends that have emerged (see below for the full list in our Disruption Database). These disruptions and trends will affect consumers, business, government, the global economy; with accelerating speed, frequency and impact.

Altimeter's Business Disruption Themes

Four Major Business Disruptions Emerge – Business Leaders Must Prepare.

Out of these disruptions and trends, Altimeter identified four major themes that will be disruptive to business. Below is a preview of Altimeter’s four business disruption themes, with a definition and short description of each. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish a short report explaining these themes in more detail.

Everything Digital: An increasingly digital landscape – including data, devices, platforms and experiences – that will envelop consumers and businesses.

Everything Digital is the increasingly digital environment that depends on an evolving ecosystem of interoperable data, devices, platforms – experienced by people and business. It’s larger than the scope of Internet of Things, as it’s pervasive or ambient – not defined only by networked sensors and objects, but including capabilities such as airborne power grids or wireless power everywhere. Everything Digital serves as the backdrop for our next three themes.

Me-cosystem: The ecosystem that revolves around “me,” our data, and technologies that will deliver more relevant, useful, and engaging experiences using our data.

Wearable devices, near-field communications, or gesture-based recognition are just a few of the technologies that will make up an organic user interface for our lives, not just a single digital touchpoint. Digital experiences will be multiplied by new screen types, and virtual or augmented reality. Individuals who participate will benefit from contextualized digital experiences, in exchange for giving up personal data.

Digital Economies: New economic models caused by the digital democratization of production, distribution, and consumption.

Supply chains become consumption chains in this new economy as consumers become direct participants in production and distribution. Open source, social, and mobile platforms allow consumers to connect with each other, usurping traditional roles and relationships between buyers, sellers, and marketplaces. Do-it-yourself technologies such as 3D printing and replicators will accelerate this shift, while even currency becomes distributed and peer-to-peer-based. In this new economy, value shifts towards digital reputation and influence, digital goods and services; even data itself. The downside? An increasing divide between digital “haves” and the digital “have-nots.”

Dynamic Organization: In today’s digital landscape, dynamic organizations must develop new business models and ways of working to remain relevant, and viable.

Business leaders grapple with an onslaught of new technologies that result in shifting customer and employee expectations. It’s not enough to keep pace with change. To succeed, dynamic organizations must cultivate a culture, mindset, and infrastructure that enables flexibility and adaptability; the most pioneering will act as adaptive, mutable “ad-hocracies.”

Altimeter’s Disruption Database

Below are the 30 digital disruptions and 15 digital trends, which were used as the starting ground of our analysis.

Disruptions Trends
3-D Printing and Replicators
App Economy
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Augmented Reality (Google Glass)
Automated Life (Cars, Homes, Driving, etc.)
Automated Robots
Bio-Engineering
Biometric Authentication (Voice/audio, fingerprint, body/eyescan, gesture, olfactory user interface Content Marketing
Digital/Social TV vs. “Second Screen”
Emerging Hand Held Devices / Platforms (Android, Tablet, Phablet)
Gamification
Gesture/Voice-Based Interface/Navigation / “Human as Interface”
Hacking/Social Engineering and Information Security
Haptic Surfaces (Slippery, wet, textured through electrical currents)
Healthcare – Data and Predictive Analytics
Human-Piloted Drones
Hyper-Local Technology / Mobile Location / Indoor Mapping
Internet of Nanoparticles (Embedded in bloodstream)
MicroMedia Video
Mobile Advertising
Mobile Payments
Native Advertising
Natural Language Processing
Near Field Communications
Open Source / Open Data / Open Innovation
Peer-Based Currency / Soical Currency (BitCoin)
Proximity Based Communications
Social Engagement Automation (Robots Respond on Twitter)
Social Network Analysis, Graphing, and Data Science
Social Technologies
Touch Permeates Digital/Surfaces: TVs, Touch Advertising
Virtual Reality / Immersive 3D Experiences
Wearable / Embedded Technology
Wireless Power / Electricity
Big Data
Collaborative Economy
Connected Workplace
Customer Experience Design/Architecture and Integration
Data Convergence/Customer Intelligence
Data vs Creative in the Org: New Decision Process
Digital Ethnography or Customer Journey Mapping
Digital Influence and Advocacy
Evolution of the Center of Excellence
Generation C
Hypertargeting
Internet of Things or Internet of Everything
Intrapreneurship, Innovation Culture, and Innovation Hubs
Pervasive Computing
Porous Workplace
Privacy: Standardization and Regulation (“Beware of Little Brother”)
Quantified Self or Human API
The Digital Journey and Understanding Digital Signals
The Maker Movement
The Neuroscience of Digital Interactions


Open Research: Please Share Your Comments and Insights with Us.

There’s more to come – we’ll be sharing additional insights such as 1) top questions for businesses to ask, 2) who’s disrupted and who benefits, and 3) enabling technologies.

In the meantime, we’re soliciting your comments as part of our Open Research model. Please share our themes with others, and help us answer these questions:

  • What other business disruptions or trends are you seeing? Please add to this Google form and we’ll provide proper attribution.
  • Which of these four business disruption themes impact your business now?
  • How is your business responding to these themes, or the related disruptions and trends?

Photos from Altimeter’s Research Offsite

Below are a couple illustrations that resulted from the discussions that took place at our research offsite:

Mock Up of Disruption Marketecture

Above Image:  Altimeter synthesized these disruptions and trends, which become broader themes. 

Graphic Illustration from Altimeter Research Offsite

Above Image: A graphic illustration of our synthesis. Thank you to Paula Hansen who was instrumental in visually capturing our discussions in real-time.

Reposted from the Altimeter Group blog 

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How to Measure Social Media ROI

Measuring digital advertising is relatively easy and

Owned and earned media? That’s a whole other story. The metrics and the methods for measuring digital marketing are less exact, the platforms are newer, while the old rules and models don’t apply.

It’s been easier to groan about “lack of analytics expertise and/or resources,” “poor tools,” “unreliable data,” or “inconsistent analytical approaches” than to roll up collective organizational sleeves and really tackle the social media measurement problem.  Yet with creativity, as well as hard metrics and defined business goals and strategies, organizations are not only measuring social media for ‘soft’ metrics such as brand sentiment, but also ‘hard’ data, such as revenue attribution.

My Altimeter Group colleague Susan Etlinger has been researching the topic and just published the result, “The Social Media ROI Cookbook: Six Ingredients Top Brands Use to Measure the Revenue Impact of Social Media” (available as a free download under the Open Research model).

While there’s admittedly no perfect measurement method, the study identifies no less than six models for measuring social media revenue impact, three “top-down,” and three “bottom-up.” The organizations that measure most effectively use a combination of these methods in concert, and the report provides a four-factor matrix to help determine which of the six methods apply, based on type of business, the product or service, media mix, and customer profile.

The media mix is of particular interest here, as my focus has been on the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media recently (the topic of my newest research report). Converged media models also require converging metrics, presenting the not inconsiderable challenge of applying findings and learnings from paid and owned, for example, into earned media. Or vice-versa, often in real or near-real time.

Like measuring social media ROI, these models are only just emerging. Measuring new media models is complex enough. The new necessity of measuring, learning, optimizing and applying data from one channel to another makes the challenge geometrically more formidable.

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Beyond the IPO: 9 Implications of a Public Facebook

image credit: http://www.llow.it

Susan Etlinger & Charlene Li are not only co-authors, they contributed more to this post than I did.

The run-up to Facebook’s IPO reminds me a bit of a wedding: everyone’s attention is on the big day (expected to be Friday May 18), without much regard for the weeks, months and years afterward. Charlene, Susan and I sat down to discuss some of the implications of a newly public Facebook: on shareholders, business and Facebook itself. — RL

Whether or not Facebook’s IPO ends up being one of the world’s largest (this Washington Post article places it sixth, between AT&T Wireless and Kraft Foods), it will certainly earn a respectable position in the history of the public markets, a lofty spot for an eight-year-old company in a relatively unproven business.

We identified ten areas where we are watching Facebook closely, as an indication of its success in the future. We picked these topics because they intrigue us, because they provoke discussion and, ultimately, because we believe they are the issues most central to Facebook’s future.

#1. Leadership
In a media frenzy in which anything (such as, for example, wearing a hoodie on a road show) can spark a news cycle, it’s to be expected that Mark Zuckerberg would have kept the lowest possible profile during Facebook’s quiet period. But now during the roadshow, on the first day of trading, and afterwards, he’ll need to step out, step up and set the tone for how he will lead this company into its next major phase. Can he pull it off?

The decision Zuckerberg must make, as a CEO who’s famous for his a “go away; we’re working on it” attitude, is whether he will use this milestone as an opportunity to cultivate his newest constituency: investors. As CEO, Zuckerberg needs to be accountable to his shareholders–not to a stock price per se, but to their faith in him. We will start to see clues to this decision during the first earnings call (a trial by fire for the CEO of any newly public company).

Of course, it’s all fun and games until there is a major hit to the stock price. We know, generally speaking, what the triggers will be: a new, poorly received product, a privacy issue, slowing user growth–the registration statement is full of examples. When this happens, Zuckerberg will have to demonstrate a completely new level of leadership. He’s chosen his executive team wisely in that both COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Ebersman are strong, respected executives who have been through this process before. And, despite his youth, Zuckerberg has learned from previous missteps like member revolts, privacy, and Beacon. If you still wonder if Zuckerberg is ready for prime time, imagine how you’d react if a major, highly unflattering motion picture had been made about you while you were still in your twenties. The issue isn’t whether he can avoid controversy, but how well he can quell the concerns of skittish investors.

#2. Innovation
Facebook has a hacker culture; its development mantra, “done is better than perfect,” is at the root of both its growth and its biggest failures. Given the massive number of monthly active users (901 million according to the latest released figures) the strategy has been to release product to the market and learn as it goes.

But as a public company, Facebook will need to choose whether it will continue to release products the way it has in the past or take a more cautious approach. How will it behave when it’s not just the pundits on Twitter, but the shareholders who react?

Although they’d hate the comparison, there’s a strong role model in Google, which, even as a public company, has managed to maintain its agile development strategy. Granted, there’s always the risk of a Buzz (Google) or Beacon (Facebook), but Facebook has demonstrated considerably more focus from the start than Google. Furthermore, the company sent a strong signal in its last quarterly statement that it will continue to make investments for long-term growth, even at the cost of short-term profits. It’s setting expectations that it’s investing for the future, not just for the quarter.

#3. Brands
Will brands buy what Facebook’s selling? Facebook is, after all, a media company, and while it has other sources of income through partnerships, brand dollars are what will ultimately make not only the IPO, but the company itself, succeed or fail. With close to a billion users, Facebook is the biggest media company that’s ever existed, in any medium, ever. Advertisers go where the eyeballs are, which is Facebook’s undisputed advantage. After that, it gets a bit trickier.

Facebook is at the vanguard of developing products that merge and conflate advertising and marketing, that blend content, conversation, paid, earned and owned media with media buys. Advertising is media buying, but those other aspects: owned media (premium brand pages) and earned media (the conversations and comments and interactions brands have with their fans, users and yes, detractors) are part and parcel of what Facebook is working to monetize. It’s still experimental. Brands are still testing the waters and are far from establishing best practices or firm models in a “brand” new environment.

#4. Data

Facebook is also in a position, thanks to its staggering user base, to possess and be able to leverage data on a scale we’ve never before seen. Likes, affinities, social graphs, recent behaviors – it’s all there, together with the basic demographic information. Again, the ability to package, parse, productize, make understandable and actionable this vast quantity of data is as formidable a challenge for Facebook as it will be for the media agencies who buy against these very new models. Facebook’s potential as a marketing data juggernaut is very real, and can potentially take advertising to new levels, if the company succeeds in making that data useful.

#5. Mobile
Most of the coverage around mobile has been focused on Facebook’s “lousy” mobile applications. But we believe this is a red herring – the core issue revolves around the slow development of mobile advertising and marketing. The S-1 says it best in the section on risks related to advertising:

  • “…increased user access to and engagement with Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently directly generate meaningful revenue, particularly to the extent that mobile engagement is substituted for engagement with Facebook on personal computers where we monetize usage by displaying ads and other commercial content…”

But with 85% of revenue coming from advertising as of the end of 2011, the more effective Facebook is at appealing to its mobile users, the more it risks shifting revenues from the Web platform where it can monetize users, to the mobile one where it can’t — at least not immediately. So the real question becomes how Facebook will balance creating mobile user value against driving shareholder value.

Facebook can’t risk waiting too long before moving aggressively into the mobile space, but also needs to buy time to help mobile advertising develop. Given this significant risk, the purchase of Instagram represents $1B of earnest money that Facebook is focused on the long term. With the war chest Facebook will have accumulated post-IPO, building a great iPad app and upgrading the smartphone experience is a foregone conclusion. The bigger issue to watch is how well Facebook can develop the mobile advertising market with that experience, in a similar way that it created social media marketing.

#6. Investors
The first earning call is always rough for a first time CEO, and Facebook will likely be no exception. But what we are watching closely is if Facebook will develop a different kind of relationship with its shareholders. The company is, at its essence, about sharing: will a newly public Facebook use its own platform to share more information with investors? Facebook has an unprecedented opportunity to change the way that it handles investor relations. Will it take this opportunity, or will it stick with the tried and true? We’d love to see Facebook use its own platform as a way to engage with and provide greater transparency to its newest stakeholders: the public markets.

#7. Mergers & Acquisitions
Thanks to Instagram, every venture-backed start-up has dreams of meeting with Facebook’s M&A team. Will Facebook focus on smaller acquisitions to acquire talent or smart ideas, or will it make major deals to really move the ball forward?

One of the more interesting areas of speculation lately is what would happen if Facebook were to buy Bing from Microsoft. With Google arguably its most formidable competitor, the addition of search would give Facebook advertisers a direct response medium they could not get before on Facebook. Google is, at its essence, a search company that has struggled with social. Facebook is a social company that needs search. A Bing acquisition would up the ante in a significant way between Facebook and Google.

Looks good on paper, but acquiring Bing would also be a huge distraction and a departure from Facebook and Zuckerberg’s legendary ability to focus on social sharing. A more likely scenario is that Facebook and Microsoft continue their long-term strategic partnership, integrating Bing deeply into the Facebook search experience.

Regardless of whether it buys Bing or another organization, few companies do the “merger” part of M&A well. We expect that Facebook will focus on smaller acquisitions that it can absorb and leverage quickly, while any large acquisitions like Instagram will be kept running separately, in much the way that Google ran YouTube as a separate entity for years. Again, a focus on the long term gives Facebook the ability to look at M&A in a very different way than traditional companies who much justify every single penny spent on a company.

#8. Culture
Facebook is a private company in many respects (one of which is about to change dramatically), but the internal culture has always been very open. It has invested heavily to create this open culture, and it has slowly but surely been reducing the amount of information shared internally in the run-up to the IPO.

This will only increase, as the company will now be beholden to even more securities industry regulations intended to protect investors from selective disclosure. So again the balancing act, this time between employees (and openness) and shareholders (and fiduciary responsibility). Which leads us to…

#9. Talent
Once it goes public, how will Facebook retain talent, especially top talent? Expect to see the usual exodus as people wait to vest, then cash out (the Bay Area housing market is already bracing for impact). But, again like Google, Facebook will retain its cachet for some time to come, and some will be motivated by the opportunity to change the world from within Facebook rather than from without. Where else can you find a platform of 900M people to try out your next great idea?

#10. Privacy
Zuckerberg has said that increased sharing is core to Facebook’s growth. But with greater sharing also come increased pressures on and threats to user privacy.

Over the past eight years, Facebook has mastered the art of trial and error when it comes to privacy. There have been huge missteps (Beacon), significant improvements (to privacy settings) and escalating tensions as the company has continually pushed its users to share more, and more often, frequently beyond their comfort zones. The company has accumulated a great deal of resilience along the way, and has tried to balance giving people a granular degree of control (at the risk of confusing them) with offering a simplified experience (at the risk of alienating them).

Charlene: The addition of Timeline, and the emergence of “passive sharing,” raise the bar yet again. A few months ago I installed the Washington Post Social Reader on my Timeline. Now I know that it involves social sharing, but one day when I was in need of a little “mental floss,” I clicked on a story about Snooki’s recent weight loss. I didn’t think anything of it until a bunch of friends and work colleagues started teasing me. There it was, on my timeline with comments: “Susan Etlinger read an article: “Snooki Finally Reaches Goal Weight of 98 Pounds – But Has She Gone Too Far?” I was, frankly, mortified. I’d forgotten I was “in public,” and I am someone who is supposed to know better.

Wherever your stance on Facebook’s privacy record, privacy will continue to be a litmus test issue for Facebook. User outrage is one thing; shareholder outrage is quite another. We will watch to see how Facebook balances continued innovation against privacy. Where will Facebook stand when and if privacy issues affect the stock price — will they pull back or forge ahead?

As always, we’d love your thoughts on these issues. What are you watching as Facebook heads into its IPO?

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