Martin Gill

Research director - digital strategy and experience, Forrester Research

Let customers lead your digital strategy

Martin leads the development of Forrester’s digital business transformation playbook, which researches the ways in which companies can become more customer-centric, agile and innovative in their business strategy.

Martin covers digital and eBusiness maturity. His research focuses on how firms can adopt organisational structures, processes, sourcing strategies, and metrics that help them embed digital tools and capabilities throughout their organisations – with the aim to become more customer-centric, agile, and innovative in how they embrace change. He is based in the UK but covers global trends.

Dots Live

Don't be the next Jar Jar Binks


Knowing what your customers do doesn’t make you customer-led. Customer-led companies don’t just understand what their customers do, they also understand why they do them. This was the core of Martin Gill’s insightful talk at Dots 2016.

As a research director at Forrester Research, Martin knows a lot about how brands are constantly trying to learn more about their customers. But his passion for understanding customers came long before he started working with Forrester. It started back in 1977, with the release of Star Wars.

You aren’t your audience

Fast forward to 1999 and the world is waiting for the first Star Wars release for 15 years. Along came Jar Jar Binks. “It was clear another Star Wars movie was needed, but the movie’s producers were focussed on digital innovation and thought that’s what the consumers wanted,” said Martin to the Dots audience. “It wasn’t.”

Fast forward again and the next Star Wars movie had a whole new host of characters, but this time grossed $247m in the first weekend alone, breaking all box office records and receiving 93% aggregated reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. What was different?

“Star Wars had been sold to Disney, who hired a customer-obsessed director,” said Martin. “He went and spoke to the fans to create part of the film and really integrated them into the story creation. He knew why customers wanted what they wanted.”

Having data doesn’t make you customer-led

Just having the data doesn’t make you customer-led. Customer-led companies understand why their customers do things and collaborate to serve them. So how do they do this?

Firstly, customer led companies are combining static survey insight with research – in particular ‘why?’ research. EasyJet, for example, when it launched its mobile app, looked at surveys to understand its static information. However, ethnographic research showed that there was a piece of functionality missing – the ability to have dual boarding passes. This research has resulted in an award-winning app and drove huge halo benefits in the organisation.

Secondly, customer-led companies combine unstructured data with structured data to really understand what their customers want. “Sony used structured and unstructured data to create an app called One Stadium, which had 20million downloads. 60% of customers reported improved brand sentiment and Sony saw 7% uplift in social media following the release,” said Martin.

Thirdly, customer-led companies combine market research with co-creation. Lenovo, which is known for making boring grey laptops, is now making awesome gaming PCs due to market research. Integrating market research with co-creation with its customers has led to it creating a computer game called Game State, which has generated 80 million customer contacts.

Fourthly, customer-led companies combine descriptive analytics with predictive analysis. “O2 knows from analytics that the majority of people travelling to France on the Eurostar buy its roaming plans en route,” said Martin. “The challenge for it has been how to identify the people going to France, as more than one train route runs in that direction. O2 has integrated other supporting data to isolate customers going to France and increased uptake on roaming plans.”

Creating new journey maps

Research shows us that 68% of executives identify the current structure and organisation of businesses as the blocker to improving digital maturity. Only 18% tell us their marketing and IT teams have a great collaborative relationship.

Historically customer journey maps help us break down the silos, but Martin said there’s another way.

“Collaborative journey maps, fed with real-time data, can go some way further to understanding what is actually going on with customers and in the business.”

Collaborative journey maps help to visualise, share, monitor, optimise, link, and reveal content about customers. “It’s real time and helps get to the bottom of what customers want, and what’s going on within the organisation,” said Martin.

“The majority of people think they are customer led, we think we know what customers want. Always remember Jar Jar – you don’t want to be him.”