Platform Support for m-Commerce Continues To Build Momentum

With Roy Rubin’s tweet today, we have one more example of an eCommerce platform working to make mobile commerce (mCommerce) an easy next step for their clients. The list continues to grow and includes platform providers such as ATG, IBM Websphere Commerce, Fry, Marketlive, Demandware, Escalate Retail, hybris, Intershop, and now Magento. In some cases this is being done natively within the application via the mobile web leveraging browser detection and CSS, in some cases through partnerships with third parties, and in some cases through services which enable mobile applications. Many other platform solution providers I have a chance to work with are not far behind, and are working hard on this. (Some of whom I am bound to hear from as soon as I hit “publish” with this post). But a key question is:

What are some key things to look for when evaluating this piece of the commerce solution portfolio?

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Intuit Financial Services Plans Unique Cross-Sell Targeting Tool

Met today with the folks at Inuit Financial Services (formally Digital Insight) - a online banking platform vendor. The purpose of the call was to discuss an upcoming document around cross-selling financial products on the Web that I am in the process of writing. During the discussion, they highlighted an exciting new cross-sell targeting engine that will be available this Summer to their FinanceWorks' clients.


FinanceWorks is IFS's online personal financial management suite of services. One features of that service is the ability to aggregate accounts from different providers into a single account view. Why this is an interesting cross-sell opportunity is that this Summer IFS will offer a ad targeting engine that will allow its clients to target cross-sell messages based on EXTERNAL owned accounts. Let me give you an example.


Let's say a customer of a ABC bank aggregates their American Express credit card within FinanceWorks. ABC bank can set up a rule such that if a customer doesn't have a credit card with them, has a credit card with an another provider (e. g. AMEX) and that competitor card has an APR of more than 12%; they can target a message to the customer highlighting ABC bank's credit card and rate (a rate they KNOW will be less than what they have on their AMEX card). Offers can also be targeted based on the balances of external accounts.


What is particularly exciting is that most of this type of analysis in the past would have had to happen offline, but with IFS's new targeting engine, those decisions are both intelligent and dynamic.


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Where US online retailers are operating in Asia

Over the past few months, we’ve fielded multiple requests related to the online shopping market in Asia. Retailers and vendors alike are looking to position themselves for long-term success given the rapid online growth rates in the region:  By 2013, for example, close to half of the global online population will live in Asia, with some 17% of the global total coming from China alone. To see how US online retailers are taking advantage of this shift, we took a look at the top 50 online retailers on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list and mapped their transactional sites in Asia. A few observations follow.

Japan tops the list, especially for companies with only one web site in Asia. What was interesting as we worked through the list was that relatively few of leading online retailers in the US operate transactional sites in Asia, and far fewer operate in multiple countries. Several top online apparel retailers, for example, operate a web site for Japan only: Lands’ End, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s have all taken this approach.

Consumer technology companies have the broadest regional reach. By contrast, online retailers in the consumer technology arena tend to have a broader regional presence. Dell, Apple and SonyStyle operate in multiple Asian markets, with Dell and Apple having the most transactional web sites in the region despite Sony's Asian roots. Office Depot also has a strong commitment to the region with eCommerce sites in Japan and China, as well as in South Korea.

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Retailers Plan To Expand into Online Customer Service

There was an interesting article in The Wall St Journal last week about the value of social media. In a piece called “Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media”, Sarah E. Needleman quotes Pace University's Lubin School of Business marketing professorLarry Chiagouris regarding the challenge eBusiness executives face in assessing social media: “The hype right now exceeds the reality”. 

I agree that the reality has not always lived up to the hype.  But was the hype too good or the reality not good enough? 

The WSJ quotes a survey of US small business owners saying that only 22% made a profit from promoting their firms on social media, 53% broke even, and 19% lost money after promoting their business on social media. 

But profit doesn’t equal social media success. Social media can have many objectives and customer service is a growing goal. 

eBusiness executives are increasingly looking to social media as part of a larger customer service strategy; currently,  in our recent survey of retail executives (Q4 2009 US Retail Executive Online Survey), 54% offer customer ratings or reviews, 23% have an online community or forum, and 16% do customer support through Twitter.  These numbers are poised to grow in the next twelve months with a further 30% planning to implement customer ratings or reviews, 27% planning an online community or forum, and 21% planning to provide customer support through Twitter. 

eBusiness professionals must ask the following questions before they launch social customer service (or any social strategy) to ensure their implementation and subsequent assessment reflect the real potential:

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eBusiness Leaders are Optimistic about 2010

No one that manages a P&L will ever look back at 2009 and say "what a fun year!" eBusiness executives are certainly glad to have 2009 behind them and report to us that 2010 is not as fraught with economic concerns. We just published the results of our most recent survey of 100 eBusiness and Channel Strategy executives and found that although overall budgets for eBusiness aren't increasing that dramatically, our respondents aren't feeling the heat to cut back like they were last year. 

Even better, our survey respondents are increasing their budget for new innovation and technology. In 2010, the percentage of the online budget dedicated to new investment and innovation is expected to increase or significantly increase at 52% of firms. Hooray! It's a battle cry for all eBusiness execs to step up their games, and for senior executives in their firms to step up their commitment to and support of the channel. Spending (by our respondents) will focus on analytics and then ratings and review platforms.

Analytics have been a constant in our surveys, and ratings and reviews don't surprise us. Social media is hard for eBusiness execs to get their heads around because many social efforts clearly drive marketing objectives like brand engagement, but the impact on actual sales and conversion is fuzzier. Ratings and reviews are a clearer conversion tool for retailers in particular. My colleague Brad Strothkamp wrote a blog post though about the use of ratings and reviews in financial services, which is not nearly as black and white an issue. 

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USAA proves the value of Web site ratings and reviews to financial services

Numerous conversations over the last few months with financial service firms has proven one thing to me - most are dealing with questions around social media and social commerce and yet few are sure how best to proceed. Much of what has been written thus far centers around the role social can play in the areas of marketing and brand, but there are beginning to be more stories that are surfacing around uses directly related to eBusiness on a firm's Web site.


The best case I have seen for social on a Web site came from USAA and is part of a case study I wrote with Tom Vaughn, director of social media at USAA. View Now.


What separates USAA's story from others we have heard?  It is backed up with direct ROI and metrics in areas that drive the business - conversion and sales. USAA was able to prove that providing ratings and reviews using Bazaarvoice's solution drove an incremental 15 thousand plus products sales in a nine month period.


So should you rush out and add ratings and reviews to your Web site? Probably not since most financial services Web site fail to get the basics done right. But assuming you have the basics down, I would consider adding this one to your functionality roadmap.



Mobile Coupons - What about them?

This is probably one of the top 10 inquiries I get from clients. Should I have a mobile coupon offering? If so, what form of mobile technology should I use? Our new report, "Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush or Fool's Gold?" addresses this question in more detail. This question was especially important in 2009 with the poor economy as consumers sought savings and deals.

Do consumers use mobile coupons today? A few do. Our surveys show that a few percent have at least trialed mobile coupons. There have been some usability issues - how to opt in to programs, download a coupon application, breadth of offers available - as well as demand. Heavy users of mobile coupons are not necessarily heavy users of mobile data services. My grandmother cuts more coupons than anyone else I know. She has a prepaid 100 minute per month voice plan. Will she ever use mobile coupons? Probably not. She turns 90 this summer. A lot could change in 10 years, but until her arthritis is so bad that she can use scissors, I think she'll still be clipping coupons from the newspaper. I see more opportunities in luring young mobile-savvy cell phone users into opting in for programs.

That said, I'm optimistic. The main reason ... every grocery store and many retailers that I know are using mobile coupons. Target launched a few weeks ago. Target takes providing an amazing guest experience very seriously. When you ask, "are mobile coupons ready for primetime?" Target adopting and rolling them out is a clear "yes" for a leading US brand. Safeway. Best Buy. Krogers. JC Penney. These are just a handful of the companies rolling out mobile coupons. With their marketing power and ability to drive awareness and motivate adoption, I expect we'll see a significant jump in adoption and usage this year.

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Forrester's new Blog Network


Our new blog network has gone live! This is so exciting and will enhance the way that readers can interact with our analysts.  Here’s what Cliff Condon, the project manager, has to say about it:


Hey everyone.  Here it is – Forrester’s new blog network. We made some change to improve the experience for readers and to encourage more analysts to blog. Feel free to poke around and let me know what you think.


There are a few things I’d like to point out to you:

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Forrester Research is hiring — become a senior analyst on our global eBusiness team

If you see how fast corporate digital commerce is changing, it won’t surprise you to learn that Forrester is hiring.

We’re hiring for the position of Senior analyst. This is a key job, because it will put you right in the center of transformation that’s happening as companies begin to embrace digital commerce enablement.

This job is truly diverse in its scope and has been the most rewarding one I have ever had. You’ll spend your time speaking with people in companies who are actually driving eBusiness innovation; gathering information about what works, what doesn't, and where the industry is going. These in-depth interactions, combined with our extensive consumer research data, form the basis of our research content. You write documents on topics of interest to clients or work with clients on how to build these applications.

In the analyst job, we’re looking for people with real experience building eBusinesses — either at a company, in an agency, or in a technology vendor.

Our current analysts on this team are working in Cambridge, Massachusetts; San Francisco; New York; and London. For this position, due to the need to collaborate freely, we're most inclined to hire analysts who can work in London or Amsterdam.

Forrester is an extremely collegial place, with analysts around the world collaborating freely with one another. We keep driving forward into new areas of knowledge. Working here is a blast.

Here's how to apply: Click to see the description for the Senior analyst position. Then click “Apply for this job.” I hope I get to work with you.

US and Western European online retail will grow double digit year-on-year over the next five years