The Future Of The Digital Store Is Closer Than You Think

Adam Silverman

[This is a guest blog post by Rebecca Katz.]

When I tell friends and family I’m researching the future of the digital store, they more often than not conjure up a certain image in their heads: robotic sales associates, augmented reality dressing rooms, holographic advertising displays, and maybe even hovercraft-friendly shopping malls (à la The Jetsons).

And while components of digital stores are absolutely in line with this flashy and quintessentially futuristic vision (Samsung’s virtual fitting room—equipped with 3-D cameras and depth perception software—can virtually drape an article of clothing over a shopper’s reflection, for example), here’s the thing: some of the most revolutionary digital store innovations are actually completely invisible to the customer. In other words, we may not always notice it happening around us, but digital store transformation isn’t some far-off ideal that retail executives are ruminating on from the sidelines. For leading retail organizations, the store of the future is already well underway.

In our new report The Future Of The Digital Store we tackle the role of technology in today's physical shopping experience. The report explores how stores are successfully utilizing digital technology to:

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Hit the road running with a new BI initiative

Boris Evelson

Even though Business Intelligence applications have been out there for decades lots of people still struggle with “how do I get started with BI”. I constantly deal with clients who mistakenly start their BI journey by selecting a BI platform or not thinking about the data architecture. I know it’s a HUGE oversimplification but in a nutshell here’s a simple roadmap (for a more complete roadmap please see the Roadmap document in Forrester BI Playbook) that will ensure that your BI strategy is aligned with your business strategy and you will hit the road running. The best way to start, IMHO, is from the performance management point of view:

  1. Catalog your organization business units and departments
  2. For each business unit /department ask questions about their business strategy and objectives
  3. Then ask about what goals do they set for themselves in order achieve the objectives
  4. Next ask what metrics and indicators do they use to track where they are against their goals and objectives. Good rule of thumb: no business area, department needs to track more than 20 to 30 metrics. More than that is unmanageable.
  5. Then ask questions how they would like to slice/dice these metrics (by time period, by region, by business unit, by customer segment, etc)
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Adopt The Customer Life Cycle To Accelerate Your Journey To Customer Obsession

Sheryl Pattek

In ancient Greek mythology, Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of the King of Troy, had the gift of prophecy with complete knowledge of future events. But the impact of Cassandra’s gift was stymied by her inability to alter the future or even convince others of the validity of her predictions. The metaphor of Cassandra hasn’t remained just an interesting myth. We see it applied in a variety of contexts, including politics, psychology, science, entertainment, philosophy, and business.

Since at least 1949, when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard coined the term “Cassandra complex,” organizations have been grappling with the disconnect between establishing a new vision for the business with the ability to reach consensus and actually move forward toward reaching that vision. Achieving a clear, shared vision is often difficult, as it does not match reality and many not feel a sense of urgency to change, resulting in a lack of commitment to the new vision. At the same time, those who support the new vision are termed Cassandras — they are able to see what is going to happen, but no one believes them. Even Warren Buffett, who repeatedly warned that the 1990s stock market surge was a bubble, earned the title of “Wall Street Cassandra.”

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Content Marketing On Messaging Apps Must Follow The Customer Life Cycle

Clement Teo

In case you haven’t noticed, the number of smartphone users in Asia Pacific has grown – we estimate that it breached the 1 billion mark in 2014. This is the first time that more people in the region used smartphones than feature phones.

When coupled with the fact that the region is also a leader in innovative messaging apps, such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk, marketing professionals can start to see how Asia Pacific is ripening into a mobile-led commerce and marketing harvest – creating a commercial marketplace where users interact and trade and offering organizations growing sales and marketing opportunities.

However, many B2C marketing professionals today limit that potential by only focusing on promoting flash sales or discounts, as seen on the likes of WeChat and Line. Marketers must consider longer-term use cases to fully mine these apps' potential. Unless a messaging app user is specifically searching for and ready to buy a particular product or service, marketers who continue to pepper the app’s chat room with meaningless discount messages will have wasted their investment. In addition, users will likely move to the next competitive (i.e., cheaper) offering when it comes along, running the risk of marketers facing a race to the bottom with cutthroat pricing.

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Are Your Reps Butchering Your Early-Stage Leads?

Lori Wizdo

Many lead-to-revenue practitioners are struggling to find the right process to manage the inbound leads (well, just traffic really) that their content marketing and thought leadership initiatives are generating. The most commonly mentioned challenge is whether or not to pass these leads to inside sales (or business development reps) to sort out the “hot leads” from the nurturing candidates. I generally recommend against using traditional inside sales reps for this because they can’t stop themselves from making late-stage offers like meetings, demos, and free trials to pre-emergent leads. These offers not only alienate buyers, they frustrate the inside sales rep, who then complains about lead quality. Here’s a wonderful example that dropped into my inbox recently.

From: Joe “BizDev” Rep
Date: Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 2:20 PM
To: "Wizdo, Lori"  

Subject: Meeting Next Week

Lori, hi!

I was excited to see that you have signed up (or simply filled out a form) to review some of our storytelling and customer conversation marketing content. I wanted to reach out to you personally to learn if our concepts inspired more questions, and I’d greatly enjoy a dialogue about the things that matter most to you.

When would be a good time to talk next week?

To your best success,

Joe

Like most professionals, I usually just delete these emails. Sometimes, if I have a moment, I respond -- generally to let the rep know that I’m not a prospect. But I can’t always resist making a remark on some good or bad practice they’ve demonstrated.

From: Wizdo, Lori

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European Cross-Channel Retail Sales Forecast, 2015 To 2020: Measuring The Influence Of Your Digital Assets Offline

Michelle Beeson

Europe's eBusiness professionals are increasingly focused on their digital presence, and with good reason. Digital touchpoints are feeding into almost every stage of the customer life-cycle. For many retailers over half of all online traffic comes from mobile devices, like smartphones - yet, smartphone conversion rates are considerably lower. Initially this may appear as a cause for concern. But Forrester’s updated European Cross-Channel Retail Sales Forecast sheds a different light on this phenomenon by quantifying the influence of digital touchpoints, including mobile, on overall sales, both online and offline.

eBusiness leaders must consider their digital assets as part of the whole customer-lifecycle, rather than simply channel by channel. Digital touchpoints have a significant influence beyond online sales. In fact, by 2020, Forrester forecasts that digital will influence 53% of total retail sales in EU-7, or €947 billion, including a combination of online sales and offline sales influenced by online research.

Key takeaways from the updated cross-channel retail sales forecast published today include:

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Think A Data Lake Is THE Answer? Think Again. Here Comes Elastic Analytics

Brian  Hopkins

Enterprise architects, are you mired in a tangled web of data marts while your business pursues customer engagement without you? If you think a Hadoop-centric architecture is going to save the day, you may need to rethink. Your customers expect you to create systems of insight to deliver win-win engagement in real time. I'm seeing a new class of digital predators leverage the cloud to do just this. For example, Netflix designs cover graphics for its series based on subscriber viewing habits. They know their customers that well.

I call their technology approach an Elastic Analytics Platform in my recently published report. I formally define it as:

"A combination of data storage and middleware technology that allows the creation and dissolution of analytics components on demand, while provisioning these with data from one, or a few, distributed, virtualized data sources."

That's a mouthful. So here's a rough picture:

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Smart Home Activities Will Align With Existing Markets, Rather Than Create A New One

Frank Gillett

Consumers are implementing connected home activities one gadget at a time - Forrester surveys show that about 13% of US online adults use one or more smart home device. But unlike mobile, where a brand new technology established a new category, smart home products will transform existing home markets, such as insurance, energy, health, water, and food, rather than create a new one.

Sure, Apple and Google will battle to be the dominant app interface and software platform – but they won’t be controlling or taking over those markets. Instead, individual companies will soon be experimenting with how to promote and even subsidize smart home products to create interactive relationships with their customers that simply weren’t possible before. Liberty Mutual and American Family just started subsidizing Nest Protect smoke detectors in return for monthly confirmation that the homeowner is keeping them on and connected to Wi-Fi. Similarly, grocers and food brands such as Nestlé and Unilever will begin promoting smart devices, like the Drop baking scale, and recipe filled apps to encourage shoppers to keep coming back.

Emerging smart home devices will perform 13 activities that can be organized into two domains: crucial background activities that automate everyday tasks like environmental comfort, home access, and home safety, or fun and helpful foreground activities that sustain engagement, such as entertainment activities, cooking and health management, and monitoring family members. Clients can see more details and many examples in our report, The Smart Home Finally Blossoms

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Contact center outsourcers move strongly to omnichannel—brands’ attitudes need to catch up to that change

Ian Jacobs

Contact center outsourcers have gotten a bum rap. Customers frustrated with offshore accents, agents with no power to actually solve problems, and overly scripted interactions have complained, sometimes loudly, about the practice. Comedians have mocked offshore agents, often mercilessly. In particular, the shared services outsourcing model in which a single agent supports multiple brands at the same time has come in for a real savaging. Check out this Funny or Die video for just one the literally dozens of such comedic rips on outsourcers. 

In many ways, brands set themselves up for such criticisms by focusing on outsourcing simply as a way to take costs out of their businesses. That focus on efficiency left little room for the types of excellent service that built customer loyalty. Today, however companies’ motivations for outsourcing customer support are changing and options for onshore or so-called near-shore outsourcing have expanded. Contact center outsourcing actually remains quite vibrant. For example, more than two-thirds of telecommunications technology decision-makers at companies with midsize or larger contact centers report they are interested in outsourcing some or all of their contact center seats or have already outsourced them. So, it is clear that outsourcing is not going away; brands, however, are starting to look at outsourcers for new types of interactions. 

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The Cross-Border eCommerce Opportunity Unfolds

Zia Daniell Wigder

In last year’s global eCommerce predictions report, we wrote that in 2015, cross-border eCommerce would become "more seamless and less apparent to shoppers". We’ve started to embark on this path: Today consumers around the world have access to growing selection of products as more retailers make their offerings available to shoppers in other countries. My colleague Michelle Beeson recently documented that cross-border sales in Europe alone will reach €40 billion by 2018.

Retailers that haven’t yet started to ship cross-border—and those that have only dipped their toes in the water—now have a variety of different solution providers that can help them take their brands into new markets. Analyst Lily Varon and I just published a report that looks at the trends and leading vendors in this space with a focus on solutions targeted at US-based merchants. It’s now common to see retailers working with different partners including:

International parcel carriers. A number of retailers elect to manage their international shipping options directly with an international carrier such as UPS or FedEx. In some cases, a cross-border option is an extension of the existing relationship between the merchant and the carrier; in others, merchants will seek out a new partner specifically to help with cross-border shipments.

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