In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.
The answer is sadly, not very well at all.
Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.
So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.
Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.
I recently had the chance to catch up with John Federman, president and CEO at Searchandise Commerce, to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on Searchandise, its business strategy, and its organizational structure.
Searchandise is a retail search network with an interesting model combining pay-for-performance tactics of search marketing with in-store merchandising practices. Its product marketers leverage cost-per-click bids to enhance product position within search listings across a network of retail sites, similar to co-op marketing models -- like a wholesale brand purchasing premium shelf space in a brick-and-mortar retailer. Retailers monetize these search listings, generating an incremental revenue stream.
Forrester: John, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. How are you looking at this, and what does it mean for your business?
With a big splash, we recently launched a significant idea and theme for eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals for 2011 and beyond called agile commerce. In the report "Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce," we highlight how customers no longer interact with companies from a "channel" perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. As a result, eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals have to leave their channel-oriented ways behind them and enter the era of agile commerce -- optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across touchpoints.
Since its launch, we've received some excellent feedback from clients and thought-leaders, validating agile commerce. We've also interviewed three executives in our ongoing series about how agile commerce is affecting their clients and how they are positioning themselves to support the transition to agile commerce. Please continue to visit our community and our blog to share with us your perspective on how agile commerce is affecting your business. Do you see the signs of this disruption in your business? Is your organization evolving to sell and service customers seamlessly across touchpoints? What organizational models and technology decisions are you making to optimize your commerce efforts across touchpoints?
I recently had the chance to catch up with Carmen Sebe, CEO of Avangate, to talk about how agile commerce is effecting its clients and how it is positioning its solution to support the transition to agile commerce.
Avangate provides software companies with eCommerce, partner management solutions, and an affiliate network; assisting them to sell their products online as well as to manage a global distribution network. Founded in 2005, Avangate currently serves more than 1,500 software companies through its SaaS eCommerce solution and has a 22,000 member affiliate network. Carmen is a seasoned technology CEO who has worked with European and global clients for many years.
Forrester: Carmen, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about your business and agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints. You serve clients selling digital goods across a number of different models, such as B2C and B2B. How are you looking at agile commerce and what does it mean for your business?
Ms. Sebe: For our business this has a two-fold implication: on the one hand in the way we help our customers — software sellers — reach and deliver products digitally to their B2B and B2C users. And on the other hand, agile commerce will impact the way we reach our clients. With agile commerce, software vendors will expand their product offerings to allow access to their services via many if not all touchpoints — and we have to be prepared to accept and support such behavior. It’s our vision to facilitate this process for our clients and shoppers.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Jodi Watson, VP, Global eCommerce & Consumer Insights at Wolverine World Wide to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on her role, her organization, and Wolverine World Wide’s business.
Since 1883, Wolverine World Wide has been a global manufacturer and retailer of footwear and apparel brands, operating in more than 190 countries around the world to bring to life brands such as: Bates, CAT Footwear, Chaco, Cushe, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Sebago, Patagonia Footwear, and Wolverine. Jodi is an experienced direct-to-consumer leader with more than 15 years in eCommerce, catalog, and retail at a wide range of firms prior to Wolverine World Wide.
Forrester: Jodi, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. How are you looking at this and what does it mean for your business?
Multichannel commerce no longer makes sense. As consumers are increasingly connected through a wide array of Internet-connected devices, the traditional multichannel commerce experience is becoming obsolete. Customers no longer interact with companies from a “channel” perspective; instead, they interact through touchpoints. These touchpoints include channels such as stores, branches, call centers, and websites, but also emerging interactions such as apps, social media, mobile sites, SMS messages, and interactive advertising -- across a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets, Internet TVs, cars, and even appliances.
As a result, it is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind and enter the era of agile commerce —optimizing their people, processes, and technology to serve today’s empowered, ever-connected customers across this rapidly evolving set of customer touchpoints. This is agile commerce.
When Jeff Bezos announced to his Amazon staff his concept for the Amazon Marketplace in November 2000, many people — inside and outside Amazon — thought he was crazy. Amazon was inviting in other sellers — individuals and merchants — to compete against Amazon’s owned inventory on Amazon.com. As full price merchants were added in categories such as consumer electronics, apparel, and baby products in the early 2000s, the head shaking continued. To paraphrase, Jeff Bezos claimed this was about “the world of perfect information.” Customers are going to find the lowest price online if they really want to, and they should be trained to find it on Amazon. Maybe Amazon could grab a piece of the pie along the way.
Of course, what was once seen as crazy is now viewed with envy, as the marketplace now represents approximately 35% of Amazon’s revenues and 30% of total units sold in Q4 2010.* Amazon charges anywhere from a 5% to a 25% revenue share on a sale through its marketplace, roughly determined by dividing the expected margins in a category in half — to be shared with the merchant. With only limited incremental technology and category management costs, the profitability of this for Amazon is easy to see. And as a result, it has also solidified Amazon’s role as the leading product search site. This success is already breeding imitators in Buy.com, Sears, Walmart, NewEgg, and soon a whole host of large UK retailers. And let’s not ignore Apple’s iTunes, clearly a very successful marketplace, though of a somewhat different flavor.