Victory Lap of 2015

6850_5Last year’s annual roundup of the top posts of the year was a big hit (in terms of traffic/clickthroughs to old posts). This year, I’m going to do something a bit different. In addition to listing my top 5 posts of the year in terms of traffic, I’m also going to list a few that got less traction, but which I humbly think are worth a read because they said something important/interesting.

My most-viewed posts of 2015:

1. The State of Digital Analytics in 2015 – it’s Adobe’s world, we’re just living in it. The digital analytics industry has been consolidating into the “marketing cloud” industry for some time, but the major vendors like Adobe and Google are each picking their own strategy. Bonus, I did a deep-dive into financial results for the Adobe Marketing Cloud in this post, and updated it here. I’ll be repeating a similar post in January.

2. Whither, IBM? I hesitated before writing this, but stand by it – not least because of the loud and strong support I got from my former colleagues at Big Blue. To understand what “company in transition” means at IBM, you have to understand how the company sees itself first. The future of Big Blue’s dominance in technology is a big question mark now. While I have more thoughts on this, I doubt I’ll write about them further. (You can still ask!)

3. Elon Musk is Wrong – We Aren’t Going to Colonize Mars – Partly a response to WaitButWhy’s series on Elon Musk and his well-publicized insistence that mankind must go to and colonize Mars; partly a rebuttal to the common internet enthusiasm for manned spaceflight. To be clear, I love and strongly support space exploration – but putting humans into space is mostly a waste of resources.

4. Reddit’s Growing Pains – Twitter’s not the clown car of social media. Reddit is. The “front page of the internet” is really anything but, and becoming less relevant with each passing year because of misguided priorities and bad leadership.

5. Three Charts That Explain “Omnichannel” – “Omnichannel” rivals only “big data” as an overused buzzword that seems to encompass whatever strategy an executive wishes to promote, but that doesn’t make it meaningless – only misused.

Here are some posts that I still think are interesting, but attracted fewer views:

1. Paradigm Shifts – the broad, long-term shift of consumer connectivity to mobile has major implications for the business of marketing, and particularly the marketing platform industry. We’re moving into an era of audience platforms – like social (FB), device (iOS/Android), services (Google) and commerce (Amazon) – whose dominance over the “open web” of today will change how marketing is done.

2. Collision Course – my exposure to the worlds of both ecommerce and marketing tech platforms revealed something interesting – both are headed directly into one another. I expect to see acquisitions and/or a lot more direct competition between the two in the very near future.

3. Measuring Up – our practices of employee performance management today are inadequate and inappropriate for a world that’s moved beyond the factory line, leaving both good employees frustrated and bad ones rewarded.

4. Ecommerce – Gradually, Then Suddenly – as a percentage of overall retail sales, U.S. ecommerce is still in single-digits territory – yet it’s already shaking up the established order, and re-creating the list of winners and losers over the next decade. Just as mobile adoption has hit its “hockey stick function” with accelerating adoption, ecommerce is doing the same.

Lately, I’ve also begun writing more on non-tech topics that I just find interesting from an investment or cultural perspective. My recent post on the quick service restaurant segment and micropayments are examples. Those were fun, especially if I can catch a burst of inspiration and enthusiasm as it’s building in my head. We’ll try more of those as time goes on!



A look at 2015

For the first time ever, I have the next week off from work. SAS closes down during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, giving employees a chance for mandatory relaxation. Yes, it is completely awesome. I plan to catch up on my reading and find out if my wife likes red velvet pancakes for breakfast.

Even besides the 70-degree weather we’re currently having in Carolina, one thing I like about this time of year are the year-end posts everyone writes: summaries, best-ofs, predictions for 2016. Here’s mine.

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Paradigm Shifts

phonesFor a long time, the marketing technology world has been obsessed with “channels.” Email, web, social, mobile, advertising, and now N types more. First, “multichannel” was the must-check buzzword, then “omnichannel,” and now, it’s mostly just “commerce” writ as broadly as possible. Billions of dollars later, creating, nurturing and converting relationships with customers across these different channels remains an unsolved puzzle today for most companies. The intricacies of “omnichannel” marketing, and the new technical and business challenges they pose, are a big part of the widespread adoption of cloud-based marketing tech and ecommerce platforms we’ve seen.

Today, we live in the era of the “marketing cloud.” Adobe, which coined the term in 2009, has seen such remarkable success that its major competitors have actually chosen to ape borrow it, leading to the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, IBM Marketing Cloud and others. (For the record: these were Marketing-101-level bad branding decisions, guys.) The bold vision of integrated, analytically-informed marketing orchestration that the all-in-one “marketing clouds” articulate is a good one, and achieved to widely varying levels by their users.

Yet looking ahead, I think the world beyond the “marketing clouds” is beginning to come into focus. It’s a paradigmatic shift, and one driven largely by the inexorable rise of mobile technology. User platforms, built and bred for mobile, will increasingly disintermediate merchants – by which I mean retailers, banks, airlines, telcos, or any other consumer-facing company – from their audiences. (Note, I didn’t say “customers.”) These platforms – most of whom are already established today, though some are still emerging – will command more and more of their users’ loyalty by offering superior experiences that merchants simply cannot match, driving the primacy of content, merchandise, and customer intelligence over all other differentiators.

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In Chicken Biscuits We Trust

We live in a great time to be a consumer. Mass markets, most famously TV and retail, are each undergoing something of a “Golden Age,” driven by disruptive entrants offering compelling new products, often enabled by technology, and competing against sluggish, entrenched legacy incumbents. Think Netflix vs. CBS and NBC, or Amazon or Trunk Club vs any number of brick-and-mortar retailers. The American consumer today is being spoilt for choice, with a proliferating number of companies competing for his and her attention, eyeballs, time and, of course, money.

fast casThere’s a similar phenomenon happening in food, which I find remarkably under-reported on. Most of the “food press” is devoted to the typical foodie beat: the organic/locavore stuff popular with the same wealthy elites that obsess over food as a vehicle for self-expression. That stuff is interesting too – more on it later in this post. Yet there’s another food renaissance happening on the other end of the market: in fast food, and the “fast casual”/quick service restaurant (“QSR”) segment broadly. As consumers, particularly younger ones, shift more of their spending towards experiences and consumables rather than tangible goods, new restaurant concepts are breaking the traditional expectations of the fast food biz and growing like crazy.

I think we’re the early days of broad growth in food, which will eventually absorb many of the dollars Americans are not spending in physical retail stores. Up and down the value chain, from your basic fast-food, to upscale “fast-casual,” to the burgeoning category of meal kit delivery, how and what people eat is changing – with interesting knock-on effects on adjacent industries like transportation and local delivery.

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Feeling the SAS

sasToday was my last day at Demandware. Starting Monday, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be stepping into a senior product management role at the SAS Institute right here in RTP.

I’m tremendously proud of our accomplishments at Demandware over the last year. The company is stacked with talent and is strongly positioned for continued growth in the retail ecommerce market. Since I joined the company, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a ton about the retail industry, particularly in the top-tier segment, and I know that the folks up there in Burlington are going to have a heck of a 2016 to come.

But this opportunity at SAS was just too appealing to pass up. Not only am I getting back into a pure product role, where I feel at home, but SAS’s Customer Intelligence group is doing some very interesting things in the next generation of marketing tech. As I learned more about what they’ve built, and what’s still to come, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. More on that to come.

I’m also deeply impressed by the kind of organization SAS strives to be. SAS, which is still private after nearly 40 years, is a strongly data-driven culture that cares deeply about taking care of its people – to the extent that it’s famous for being a great place to work. (Many people don’t know that Google used SAS as a model when developing their own employee retention strategy.) SAS also spends roughly double the industry average on R&D as a percentage of revenue, which is one of the reasons they’re the undisputed leader in business intelligence today.

I’m jumping right in next week, so stay tuned. Happy Halloween! ?