[Posted by Andrew McInnes]

Hi everyone. Andrew McInnes here. I'm a Researcher working behind the scenes in Forrester's Customer Experience group.*

I'm excited to post today because Bruce Temkin and I just published the latest report in our Gen Y design series: Engage Gen Y Online With Social Interactivity.

Forrester's Gen Y design research stems from The Gen Y Design Guide report published in December 2007. It describes how Gen Yers are different (and they are!) and identifies four design tactics for reaching them online. To delve deeper into each tactic, I've been scouring the Web and picking the brains of our design agency contacts to find good examples and spot missed opportunities. We already published findings related to the first Gen Y design tactic, immediacy, back in November of last year.

To find good social interactivity practices, we looked for sites (excluding social networks) that 1) provide the opportunity to communicate with others, and 2) offer tools for self-expression.

Here are some of our findings:

  • Zappos.com makes it easy to share product information.
  • Lands' End lets customers email personalized virtual models.
  • Sprint offers forums for device and service support.
  • Charlotte Russe helps friends shop together.
  • Wet Seal allows customers to design and vote on outfits.
  • Threadless.com rewards users for expressing themselves.

I’m particularly excited about this report for two reasons. First, Social Computing is clearly an important trend, but related discussions are often unclear about what social interactivity looks like outside of social networks — this report gets at specifics. And second, our research is pointing toward generational differences so vast firms must consider providing tailored experiences to satisfy customers — and this report offers ideas for doing just that.

You can find more on the customer experience implications of both Social Computing and generational differences in Megan Burns' Customer Experience Predictions For 2009 report and in Moira Dorsey's keynote speech at Forrester's upcoming Customer Experience Forum.

Any thoughts on how firms should use social interactivity to engage customers and drive business results? Are there any specific initiatives at your company?

* What do I mean by "behind the scenes?" Look in the upper left corner of this post. See me? Nope, I'm lurking behind the text.