"A phone is a phone. A phone stays at home. A phone doesn't go with me in the car or out on the town." Not quite the skill set of Dr. Seuss, but this is a direct quote from my 78-year-old friend from the pool. She just disconnected her home phone and now relies solely on a new iPhone 4.
Our clients have watched their traffic (and sales) from mobile devices explode in 2010. Much of this excitement stems from their observations of those customers with either iPads or what we call smartphones — all of the Apple, Android, BlackBerry, HP/Palm, Symbian, and Windows devices consumers own. Adoption of these devices has been growing rapidly. It is hard to name a media outlet, retailer, airline, hotel, bank, insurance provider, fast food company, beverage company, or consumer packaged goods company without an iPhone and/or Android application today. When these same consumer product and service companies look forward at smartphone sales forecasts for the next couple of years, the excitement around the potential opportunities is even greater. They are thinking, "... more smartphone owners will mean more downloads of my applications will mean more sales via the mobile device ...." Will it?
My colleagues Charles Golvin and Thomas Husson and I began to describe this phenomenon in our recent Mobile Technographics report. Will consumers move up the ladder? Or leap over steps? Will increased smartphone adoption translate directly into more usage and sales to companies with mobile services?
Nearly one year ago, I asserted that the global economic downturn had not slowed the international expansion of eCommerce initiatives. In 2010, online retailers continued their push into new global markets: Gap launched eCommerce sites in the UK and China while starting to ship internationally to other markets; Amazon launched its first new localized Web site in six years; Zara went live with eCommerce sites in six European markets.
The push toward global expansion is poised to continue in 2011, with few companies suggesting that international markets will represent a decreasing percentage of revenues in the future. And while Canada and the UK still rank as the top destinations for US online retailers operating abroad, it’s not just the markets of North America and Europe that are attracting attention. Indeed, companies increasingly cite emerging markets as key to long-term growth. A survey of business executives just released in the McKinsey Quarterly indicates that more than 75% of those surveyed expect to see revenues from emerging markets within the next five years; more than one-third of companies expect those revenues to represent more than 25% of the total.
Looking forward to 2011, we expect to see the following trends:
Commerce organizations are drowning in content. Their catalogs and sites have grown, the sources of the product content propagated, and site versions divide and multiply across geography, microsites, and brands. Marketing and merchandising content has similarly amplified as this content supports cross-channel, search, email, and social marketing campaigns. Targeting, testing, and personalization all contribute to the explosion of content and content coordination challenges.
Types Of eCommerce Content And Their Purposes Vary Widely
I was speaking with an eBusiness executive today who summarized his efforts around launching a support community in three succinctly non-ambiguous words: “It ain’t easy.”
A community can have many strategic purposes: PR, brand management, product development, customer service.
My colleague Melissa Parrish has written a really helpful report called “Community Management Checklist.” If you are considering launching — or have launched and want to optimize — a community, I highly recommend this report.
If your objectives are customer service-related, you will have unique requirements such as securing and rewarding internal product experts’ participation and creating internal guidelines around when to respond. To date, there hasn't been a wealth of established best practices for support communities. To assist in launching a support community, we’ve just published my report called, “Essentials To Planning A Successful Support Community.”
As a user of support communities, I’ve often wondered about what motivated these helpful strangers to guide me through resolving a download hiccup on my iTunes upgrade or navigating the mysteries of changing toner on my new printer. I’ve learned that — while their motivation may be a mystery to me — a good community manager knows exactly why each of these super-users participate, for example, for recognition, helping other people, or product passion. Some support community managers even telephone enthusiasts to develop direct relationships with them.
“Twitter is the fastest-growing customer service channel.” I hear this frequently, most recently during one of the keynote presentations at Dreamforce last week.
There are a lot of reasons to love Twitter -- or at least the idea of Twitter -- for customer service. For a customer, Twitter represents an opportunity to connect with knowledgeable, supportive, and humanized help. And for companies, Twitter is a way to publicly resolve public complaints.
I’ve used Twitter many times for service-related issues. These interactions fall into two buckets:
The times I contacted a company because other channels had either failed, were less convenient, or Twitter was simply easier.
The times I vented on Twitter and someone intervened.
As retailers approach the homestretch of the 2010 holiday shopping season, we thought it would be useful to share some insights from consumers about their Web buying activity. Forrester and Bizrate Insights teamed up in late November/early December to survey online customers, and here are a few of the findings:
Free shipping with a threshold is most popular (though people would, naturally, prefer to have no threshold). One interesting fact is that the threshold (in addition to adding units to transactions) attracts higher-income shoppers. Households with incomes over $150k are nearly twice as likely to use “free shipping with a threshold” than households with incomes less than $40k.
9% of shoppers say they belong to some shipping club (e.g. Amazon Prime, ShopRunner) and participation skews up with income. 13% of households with incomes over $150k say they have this type of membership.
Email still rules. From our Cyber Monday research with Bizrate Insights, 43% of consumers who shopped online on that day found out about deals through email. This was by far the most popular way that people found out about deals, greater than search, Facebook, or even word of mouth. The second biggest source of finding out about deals was a retailer’s own site.
It’s about women and gifts during the online shopping season. Again from our Cyber Monday research with Bizrate Insights, 69% of online shoppers were women. Only about half of men purchased gifts for others that day, but 78% of women purchased gifts that day.
ScanLife reported that the amount of scanning traffic was 30x higher during Thanksgiving weekend than one year ago. Wow! Product purchases from the application were also up nearly threefold. Books were most purchased. Toys were most scanned. See this story on PR Newswire. This Forrester report offers our perspective on a developing technology.
Forrester has launched the Online Customer Service Functionality Benchmark, a new tool to help eBusiness professionals assess the performance of their online customer service functionality and gain insight into their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
This review assesses the availability, accessibility and functionality of online customer service channels. Our approach follows three steps:
Step 1: Define user goals.The review attempts to complete user goals that we selected for each customer service channel such as looking for product information, seeking pricing options, and managing accounts.
Step 2: Score the sites on user criteria for five online customer service categories. We evaluate 103 criteria to assess a Web site’s ability to provide best-in-class online customer service. The review is broken up into categories including self-service, live help, social customer service, email and video customer support. Forrester assigns weightings for criteria based on importance, with higher weightings for availability and resolution. The score for each category is normalized to accommodate the varying number of criteria in each.
Step 3: Apply category weightings. Forrester assigns weights for each of the online customer service categories. Categories are weighted based on higher consumer usage and higher satisfaction data.
Enough with the Groupon madness this week. Let’s talk about things that actually impact our businesses. Like holidays sales to date, and in particular, a quick post-mortem on Cyber Monday now that the week is over. Forrester fielded some questions to consumers in conjunction with Bizrate Insights (the findings will be available in full to clients in a few weeks) and here are some quick takeaways as teasers:
Most people don’t buy on Cyber Monday (though many would like to), so the Cyberweek deals like Amazon has are always a good idea. 62% of the 3,200 shoppers we surveyed said that they didn’t shop on Cyber Monday.
Of those who shopped but did not buy (45% of shoppers who were trolling eCommerce sites on Cyber Monday!), 28% wanted to buy but didn’t see any products that they wanted. Product selection is king.
Social, schmocial. Not such a big deal yet. Only 7% of people who found deals on Cyber Monday found them through social networks or Twitter, versus 51% who found them from emails from the retailer.
Some people live under rocks. Kidding. But one-fifth of the people who didn’t shop on Cyber Monday said “They didn’t know there was anything special about that day.” How that is possible I have no idea, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t have time in their lives to squander away time online like the rest of us. But for anyone really wondering what this “special day” is about, check out this link (see the full slideshow here) — these are screen shots of the top 50 merchants’ home pages from this past Monday.
I was really lucky this morning. I've been spotting the yellow eBay buses around town (San Francisco) recently. I love it when companies like eBay promote new services like their mobile application -- it does so much to raise awareness and eventually demand for new services. There was one stopped next to my car when I got out of Starbucks this morning. Yay! I quickly set down my tea and reached for my phone to get a photo. The ads are promoting eBay applications for mobile phones. What I hadn't noticed were the individual QR codes helping people find the applications and download them. Companies like Target, Best Buy, and eBay using QR codes will increase awareness first of 2D bar codes and QR codes and second of the ability/option to connect with online content through your phone.
More importantly, eBay was in the news today because it reported a 146 percent jump in mCommerce sales on Cyber Monday. (See press release.) It has been public with its expectations of generating more than $1.5 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2010 compared to $600 million in 2009. I think this qualifies it as one of the hottest names in mobile commerce at least.