Aussies Love Social Media — But How Should eBusiness Respond?

"Online Australians Shift To Social Networks" is my new report that showcases Forrester's latest data about social media use in Australia.

The report is written for marketers, but these days, my main role at Forrester is to serve the eBusiness & Channel Strategy professional. So naturally, I find myself asking what these new numbers might mean for eBusiness in Australia.

The report's top-line message is continued growth. In particular, the report shows that the absolute number of Australians who regularly use social media has increased to an all-time high of 13.4 million people. However, I'd class that nugget as a "nice to know." It's a useful stat to use the next time you get in one of those tedious debates about why social media matters at all, but the Australian eBusiness leaders I speak with have largely passed that point. Their burning question is not whether to use social media at all. Instead, they want to know what tools and tactics to prioritize, so let's address three of the most common social commerce practices.

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Making Money On QR Codes

This is one of the more creative applications of QR codes - tattoos. $240 to date at $80/tattoo. Given how permanent the code is, I'm wondering if they shouldn't have considered MS Tags - more branding and flexibility. It's the 2011 version of a dog tag. Would be more interesting if these were links to pages with medical records, etc. - something useful in the case of an emergency. Kidding aside, 2D bar codes have a lifetime - whether they live in a print ad, on a book cover, or on one's skin. Those employing 2D bar codes - especially on product packaging - must take into consideration the lifetime of the code and be ready to support it whether it's a marketing campaign or a link to a video with a safety demonstration.

eBay Acquires GSI: What It Means

The eCommerce technology and services marketplace awoke to some interesting news today. eBay announced today that it will acquire GSI Commerce. The deal has a number of implications for GSI’s customers, partners, and competitors and also changes eBay’s position as a services provider and partner within the industry. It’s a big deal*, with eBay paying $29.25 a share, or approximately $2.4 billion.

Why did eBay buy GSI, what’s in it for them?

  • Diversification. eBay’s core marketplace business is eroding while key competitors — principally Amazon — put up huge numbers. As the auction and SMB focus of eBay and PayPal begins to plateau, growth must come from the much larger market segment of large merchants. This deal broadens eBay and PayPal’s portfolio of services substantially, though the synergies are relatively small. eBay CEO John Donahoe characterized that as $60M, so that is not the key to the deal.
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Our Mediocre Multichannel Mission

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.

The results were (depressing) surprising :

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Forrester's Vision On The Next Generation Of Digital Financial Services

Many of today’s financial services websites seem increasingly outdated. Why? More and more people are using the web as their primary banking channel and firms like Amazon, Apple, and Google are raising the bar on what customers — especially the younger generation — expect from their banks.

Despite the fact that the online channel is more than a decade old, most retail financial services companies have yet to make full use of its potential. Many banks still don’t make it easy for customers to achieve their goals online, they struggle to provide compelling cross-channel experiences, fail to tailor content and functionality to individual needs, and don’t enable customers sufficiently to take action by themselves.

We believe that a new generation of digital financial services is required — one that provides a fundamentally improved digital experience. To be successful, these next-generation digital financial services should be SUPER — simple, ubiquitous, personal, empowering, and reassuring.

This framework presents Forrester's vision of the of future of digital financial services and describes the technologies, processes, and organizational aspects that will enable it. It also provides examples of leading financial services firms that provide next-generation experiences today.

A key enabler of the Next-Generation is Agile Commerce which means optimizing people, processes, and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across a rapidly evolving set of customer touchpoints.

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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For John Federman, President And CEO, Searchandise Commerce

 

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?

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Agile Commerce In 2011

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?

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Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks ?

Hot off the press from last week’s Retail Week conference, “HMV will still have a portfolio of hundreds of stores on the high street in five years, HMV CEO Simon Fox told delegates”

And so they should.

But in my opinion, some careful thought is needed to position the store chain alongside HMV’s evolving digital persona.  HMVDigital, launched last July, is their take on iTunes. As a digital destination for downloading music it seems to stand on its own two feet. Product scope is a little limited in that it’s music only (no videos), but I can only assume that they have a roadmap to open up new product categories over time.

They are clearly set on taking on iTunes at their own game, a fact that is evident from the site’s logo when you link to it from HMV.com – the old familiar, faithful HMV hound listening to a gramophone, sat right in the middle of a now familiar iPod control wheel.  An interesting choice.

It would be a shame if all HMV did here was attempt to mimic iTunes, as they have one ace up their sleeve that iTunes can’t (yet) mimic; a nationwide chain of high street stores staffed with music loving store colleagues. Although the products may become digital, I believe that there is a place for human interaction that multichannel retailers such as HMV can capitalise on. And interestingly, from the tone of his Retail Week address, Fox believes this too.

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Agile Commerce Heralds Agile Customer Service

In a newly published report called “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce,” my colleague Brian Walker asserts that multichannel is dead and we are shifting into a metamorphosis called agile commerce. Forrester defines agile commerce as:

An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

Brian writes, “Today's multichannel organizational approaches do not reflect the new reality of engaging and serving the customer across touchpoints — from online search to affiliates to marketplaces to branches and stores to websites to mobile sites to call centers to Facebook.”

Agile customer service is the only way forward in a world of agile commerce.

Agile customer service requires fundamentally re-evaluating how customers are engaged and assisted across a growing number of touchpoints. Customers don’t consider the technical or operational complexity behind resolving their issues. They simply want to contact you on the device of their choice and get what they want when they want it. And they expect you to know who they are at every point along the way. To do this successfully, eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals must evaluate challenging questions about key business areas including:

  • Organization and operation: Has a sales versus support structure created silos that your customers cannot break through? Do your success metrics drive behavior that compromises a positive customer experience? Have you empowered your employees to provide exceptional service?
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Time for a local focus. Well, local if you live in Europe, that is

My first Blog post as a Forrester Analyst and I was going to go little further than saying “hey, hello!” but I figure why not take a few minutes to dig into a couple of subjects that I’m looking at.

Forrester have a large and growing body of research and a dedicated team of Analysts and Researchers serving eBusiness and Channel strategy professionals, and our research plan for the next year covers some bold topics like Agile Commerce, the future of Mobile as a channel and the growing power of Social Media.  While I’ll be looking at these topics and more, I’ve joined Forrester with a specific brief, and that is to bring some focus to the European Retail arena. 

I’ve come to Forrester from Boots, where I worked for the last 4 years in the Enterprise Architecture group leading the architecture strategy across both on-line and stores, and my move to Forrester is, in my opinion, a sign of Forrester’s commitment to do what we repeatedly tell you to do with your Retail efforts. 

Make them Relevant and Contextual.

So that’s my primary mission, at least to begin with.  Making what we do here at Forrester relevant and contextual to the challenges and opportunities of the European market.  That isn’t to say I won’t be looking at broader global eCommerce trends, and in fact one of the first pieces of work I’m doing is on the evolution of video in eCommerce (more on that soon).  But to support those of you who are either focusing on or are looking to move into the European market, I’m working on a broader piece looking into the state of Multichannel Retail in Europe.

If there is anything I can help you with, or if there are any burning topics you would like to see us focus on, then please reach out to me at mgill@forrester.com or get engaged in our community.