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?
For those of you unable to attend, I will summarize some of the content that I presented on SAP’s overall growth and innovation strategy. SAP has a double-barreled product strategy focused on Growth and Innovation.
The Growth strategy rests heavily on the current Business Suite, which includes the core ERP product that is used by approximately 30,000 companies worldwide. SAP claims that it touches 60 percent of the world’s business transactions, which is hard to validate but not all that hard to believe. The main revenue source today is Support, which comprises 50% of the total revenues of the company at more than 5 billion Euros annually, and it grew by 15% in 2009. Other growth engines include:
Apple pitched the iPad at launch as a third device that consumers would use alongside the PC and the phone. While the iPad has genuinely innovative software and hardware, Apple has done little new to make the device easy to use in tandem with existing devices, beyond what is already in the iPhone. Consumers must sync the iPad using a cable with PC/Mac iTunes to transfer music or videos; while photos and podcasts are easiest if loaded the same way.
Apple has left too much in the hands of consumers to transfer and manage manually. For example, if a consumer wishes their video viewing position to be remembered across their devices, then they must sync first the iPad with iTunes, followed by syncing their iPhone or iPod. Contrast that with Amazon's Kindle: Whispersync maintains a person's reading position automatically between Kindle apps on PC or iPhone and Kindle eReaders.
The same issue hits multiple areas on iPad from games' scores and progress, the reading position on Apple's own eBooks, and the preferences of Apps downloaded from Apple's App Store, email, calendar and contacts.
There are workarounds for some of the above from app developers. Games built with the Plus+ network essentially have their own cloud service built in. Consumers may sync Calendar/email/contacts with a cloud by using a specific provider such as Google apps, a corporate account with Exchange, or Apple's own MobileMe. Other apps have their own app specific cloud abilities like Evernote or the iPhone/iPad Kindle app.
For iPad to really fly, preferences, usernames, passwords, and content should transfer automatically across the different devices that Apple intends consumers to use together: PC, phone, and iPad. Apple should use a consumer cloud to do it. Consumers should not have to think, all of this should just work. Tethered sync is a twentieth century product feature.
If Apple does not extend its consumer cloud services, iPad will rely on a patchwork of cloud services to deliver the third device experience. But, as a consumer cloud is essentially software, Apple could easily fix all of these things mid-life for existing iPad owners. iPad is after all very much a version 1.0 .
Every time I think of the iPad as "the third device," the image of Orson Welles from the film the Third Man appears in my head:
"You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
iPad is no cuckoo clock, but it's not, yet, a Michelangelo either.
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.
Virtually every firm has been burned in the past by failed mobile initiatives that launched before the market, consumers, or technology were ready. This time is different. Why? There's now the critical mix of great devices; widely available fast mobile networks; often unlimited data tariffs; a shift in mobile carrier attitudes; and a focus from US-based firms placing mobile as a core part of their strategy, this raises the amount of mobile services and content available and in so doing boosts the value of mobile to every consumer.
The spectre of Apple's innovation has driven every mobile handset maker, every mobile operator, and every media or entertainment firm to raise their game. It's taken a while for those new smartphones and service plans to come to market. Now they are, and it is changing everything.
We're in the process of ramping up our research around mobile product strategy to help all types of companies -- in essence every firm that has an Internet presence -- to determine when and how to embrace mobile. We've published numerous recent reports, some are referenced here.
And, to pull together in a little more depth why mobile and why now, and set out how we can help different types of firms with their mobile strategy, we've put together a short document. Anyone can read this, whether or not you are a Forrester client:- Forrester's CPS Mobile Consulting capabilities
For the cynics out there, especially those too lazy to follow that link, here's my take on why mobile's time really has come: